Click! Feminist Chutzpah on the Job

I really didn’t care if I got the job or not. This was my third interview with the same gentlemanly white man with a soft Southern drawl. He seemed no closer to offering me the position than he’d been in the first interview. The questions were essentially the same: “Why do you think you’re qualified for this job?” “Will the travel involved be a problem?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Blah, blah, blah.

“They’re covering their asses. They don’t really want to hire a woman but they don’t want to get sued,” I thought. I had identified myself as a feminist in college and I knew all about affirmative action.

This was in the early ’70s, when corporations were under pressure to hire more women and minorities for non-traditional jobs but were looking for ways to avoid it. I recognized the tricks–demanding experience in areas where women had never worked or talking about how the demands of the job would be tough on a family. I was once even asked what kind of birth control I was using because the company wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get pregnant and quit before their investment in training me paid off. I left that interview and joined my local NOW chapter.

So, I patiently answered his questions for the third time. Then, I decided to take control. They didn’t want me and I didn’t care anymore.

“I have a few questions myself,” I said. “How many women are on your corporate board?” He didn’t know. “How many women are in upper management?” Again, he didn’t know. “What is the career path from this position and what is the likelihood that a woman will move up?” He said he didn’t know exactly what I was asking.

Now, I was totally fed up with this charade. I told him,

I’m asking these questions because it looks like this company has no women in positions of authority and doesn’t seem to know how to begin hiring them. I am very qualified for this job. In fact, I’m overqualified. But you seem to think it’s beyond a woman’s capability. I am interested in a career and I’d like to know that my sex would not hold me back.

Now I was on a roll. “If I thought I was denied a promotion or raise due to sex discrimination, I would not hesitate to take this company to court.” If he was shocked, he didn’t show it. “Thank you for coming in. We’ll let you know.” Oh, I already knew.

The phone was ringing as I walked in the door at home. “We’d like to offer you the job. When can you start?”

Later, I learned that after I left he told everyone that he’d met one woman he thought had the “chutzpah” (a traditional Southern expression, I guess) for the job.

I have to tell you, it was the easiest job I ever had–easy enough for a man.

Image of job interview from Flickr user bpsusf under Creative Commons 3.0


Not the singer/songwriter Carole King. Been a feminist for as long as I can remember and committed to reproductive rights even longer.