Gender and the Job Hunt: A PSA

By Allyson Hawkins 

As the year winds down, group projects come to a close, and everyone is putting the finishing touches on capstones, many of us are getting our ducks in a row and embarking (in earnest this time, I swear!) on the job search. It’s the question that lurks in the background of every phone call with your parents, the unsettling topic we all avoid when we do get a few minutes to relax and catch up with each other, and a perpetual piece of my running to-do list. FIND THAT JOB!

Recent conversations with my friends reveal: finding a job, not as easy as it looks! But don’t worry, that’s not the PSA. What I think is worth noting, however, is how gender can pop up during the job hunt, sometimes quite insidiously, in ways that I personally had never considered.

Below are a few gender related musings and anecdotes worth calling attention to, courtesy of collective Fletcher wisdom from both current students and alums.

1. WHICH QUESTIONS ARE OK?

There are some questions that interviewers should never ask you, but they do it anyway. Or, they do it in a sneaky way, under the guise of being friendly or conversational. While some questions are illegal,  there are some others that, while not against the law, are certainly inappropriate. These include:

What is your religious affiliation? Are you (or will you be) pregnant? (Or, put more nicely, are you and your partner thinking of starting a family?) How old are you? Are you disabled? Are you married? Are you in debt? Do you smoke or drink socially? The list goes on.

The bottom line: You are under no obligation to answer these questions. Responding to these types of questions can be tricky (you want the job, right?) but there are ways to maneuver around them gracefully! Brush up!

2. TO RING OR NOT TO RING?

A friend told me that before a recent job interview, she removed her engagement ring before heading into the meeting. Turns out, there’s quite a lot of literature out there debating this very topic (thanks, Google). Does taking the ring off mean you’re not a feminist? That you’re letting the patriarchy win? That you’re ashamed of your relationship?

From an excellent take on this from XO Jane:

“Will they think I won’t be as committed to my job and be distracted while wedding planning? Will they think I’ll drive a hard negotiation for salary because hey, weddings are expensive? OR will they dread the amount of paid time off I might take?”

Or, even worse- might an employer be inclined to pay you less because you have a man to take care of you?

The bottom line: As always, feminism is about choice. Choose to wear a ring or not, but it’s good to recognize some of the patriarchy-bound pros and cons of this scenario. Especially because, as outlined above. your marital status is NOT RELEVANT to your ability to perform a job well.

3. DON’T SELL YOURSELF SHORT 

This advice comes our way via Fletcher alum Adrienne Klein F’16. In her words:“I just had a huge wake up call from a lovely woman. I asked her briefly to review my resume before applying to a job at her organization and she changed one paragraph:

I hold a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Tufts University with a concentration in human security and nutrition. I honed my familiarity with the UN system and international humanitarian policy and principles, proactively sought out skill building workshops and completed coursework in technical areas such humanitarian response, complex emergencies, and gender analysis. I also attended crisis simulation exercises and wrote reports, briefing papers, and opinion pieces that were well received. The interdisciplinary nature of The Fletcher School and associated research centers allows the institution as a whole to spearhead evidence based-practice across disciplines focused on service… 
Her advice to me: “I suggest discussing these skills without specifically calling out that they are from school rather than on the job.” 
Throughout my career I have become attuned to the need to be well-networked and to effectively interact with local businesses and thought leaders, local government officials, and international donors. I have advanced training in human security and nutrition and am familiar with the UN system and international humanitarian policy and principles. I have proactively sought out skill building workshops and completed coursework in technical areas such humanitarian response, complex emergencies, and gender analysis. I also attended crisis simulation exercises and have written reports, briefing papers, and opinion pieces…
See how different these sound? Adrienne shares:
“The first paragraph makes me sound young and eager without much experience. The revised version allows my experience and the opportunities I’ve taken to shine. In case anyone else may be making that same mistake, I wanted to point it out.”
The bottom line: Don’t sell yourself short! There are many ways to re-frame your resume to avoid pesky assumptions employers might make about your ability to do a good job based on your age or gender. Thanks, Adrienne! May we all benefit from your wisdom! 

This PSA is not meant to scare you (although, at this point, anything job search related makes me want to pull the covers over my head). Just a forceful, yet friendly reminder to consider these dynamics during the job hunt. Don’t let the patriarchy prevent you from kicking butt and getting that dream job, folks! Because at the end of the day…

Allyson Hawkins is a second year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate at the Fletcher School, focusing on the intersection of human security and gender in the Middle East. She can be reached at allyson.hawkins@tufts.edu. 

This entry was posted in Alumni Spotlight, Gender in Practice, Resources. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply