The Wall Street Journal had a big report this week on women in the workplace, covering everything from the importance of networking to how to get more women simply working in general.
One article in the report detailed the concerning gap between the number of men and women in the tech field particularly, and it included companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo among the culprits. While it seemed like a pretty standard piece on the subject – all of those companies are trying really hard to close that gap – there was a very interesting quote about Slack Technologies near the end:
“The hiring of engineers required special attention. All job candidates must complete a coding exercise to demonstrate the logic behind their problem-solving. The way the exercise was conducted – on a whiteboard in front of a group of people – put women and minorities at a disadvantage because research showed they didn’t perform as well doing the exercise in public, (vice president of people and policy Anne) Toth says. Now Slack has all of its engineering candidates complete the test in private.”
So…according to research, women and minorities are just flat-out incapable of explaining themselves to groups of people? Why, exactly, wouldn’t they be able to do that? It may not seem like much of a big deal to have candidates complete the test in private, but, you know, eventually there will come a time when they will have to simultaneously tell a couple people what they’re working on.
In a woman’s case, I can begin to understand the pressure of demonstrating one’s logic to a group of what is likely mostly men, especially in the tech world. It has to be tough for a woman to prove herself in that culture. However, what if she’s up at the front of the room and she starts menstruating and speaking tongues as her eyes roll back into her head? That’s not a good situation for anybody. The alternative private tests are not only more fair, but they’re safer as well.
Even if you could make that case for women, how do you explain the research’s reasoning for minorities? And no matter what, even if these were rooms full of white men 100% of the time, which they likely weren’t, wouldn’t a highly qualified, intelligent candidate for the job – female, minority or both – still be able to handle that pressure? Does standing up in front of a small group of people just make them immediately break into hives and pass out?
These underrepresented groups certainly need a bigger presence in the tech world and overall workforce, but hiding behind “research” vaguely determining that women and minorities are at a disadvantage for something that seems like nothing but a required skill for the job they’re vying to get sure seems like a step backwards.
This report did teach me something valuable, though. Now when I’m in a meeting and a woman is asked to give an update of her work progress to the group, I know I need to watch her very closely, because she could turn into a raging she-beast at any moment, desperate for the taste of male liver.