is being a woman something you can use as a “selling point” in an interview?

A reader writes:

I work in commercial aviation as a pilot. I am currently applying for an internal management position that is seen by managers as a stepping stone to progressing up the company ladder. Every high level manager in my department is a man. I am 28 and have been in the industry for 6 years (first two were for training). I’ve had three jobs so far, due to the recession, and I’ve been in my company for 18 months.

I have secured an interview after a tough selection process (a 1,000-word essay, cover letter and resume). My question is… Is it non-PC to say that I believe there needs to be a more equal representation in my department? I’m not saying I want the job because I am woman. I just mean that I believe women need better representation at the higher levels and as a result could influence promotion of my job in the wider world. And how could you articulate this without sounding overly feminist and wanting an easy ride up the career ladder?

No, it’s not appropriate, nor is it an argument for hiring you. There might be an argument for hiring more women in general, but that doesn’t mean that you personally should have a leg up. The only argument for hiring you is that you’re a spectacular candidate.

And that’s what you should focus on in the interview: demonstrating why you’d be an excellent fit for the position. Any argument you make for hiring you that isn’t about how you’d excel at the job is an argument that will weaken your case (and probably make people uncomfortable, since you’d be asking them to consider something irrelevant to the job).

Besides, if they want to hire a more even mix of men and women, the way to do that is to make a deliberate effort to broaden their pool of candidates, so that they have lots of well-qualified women (and men) to choose from. It’s not to hire the candidate in front of them who happens to be a woman.

{ 109 comments… read them below }

  1. A Bug!*

    overly feminist and wanting an easy ride up the career ladder

    I think you have a fundamental (but common) misunderstanding of feminism.

    Good luck in your interview!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The “overly feminist” comment rubbed me the wrong way too, and I spent a long time trying to explain why before finally giving up. I actually had trouble articulating the problem with that phrase — I mean, it’s true that being “overly” concerned about equal treatment could indeed be annoying, if someone were seeing injustice everywhere, even where it didn’t exist. I suppose that could be “overly” egalitarian. But I’m not sure that’s how the statement was meant. (OP, correct me if I’m wrong — I may be.)

      1. Darcie*

        I think she means that being feminist can be seen as a bad thing, a “ball-buster”, or “boner-killer” (just dig up any article about Hillary Clinton). I think it would come off as too political, but maybe those things are the same.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Yes there is. When women make an argument that they should be hired base on sex vs their qualifications it is overly feminist. If people think you got hired because of your sex vs abilities it will render you ineffective among your peers and leadership.

          1. KW*

            Word. I think feminism these days is more about equality and respect, and freedom of expression for people of all genders.

    2. Jamie*

      Nice catch.

      I used to be someone who bridled at the word feminist and I didn’t know why. A desire to distance myself from the very small but outspoken minority who seem to imply that women are superior to men and that men are somewhat irrelevant.

      Then I realized that isn’t feminism – I don’t know what it is besides bigotry – but it’s not feminism.

      By definition I like to think that most reasonable people are feminists in belief – whether they wear the label or not:

      “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”

      I like to think we live in a society where the vast majority of us, women and men, subscribe to the above view.

      1. Josh S*

        There are more … militant strains of feminism, but I agree with your definition. And I think that most people would as well.

        I would even add a bit, though it might need some refinement: “the doctrine advocating that all social, political, and other rights of women be equal to those of men, and that roles in society (professional/social) are minimally distinguished between women and men”.

        That may get a bit more divisive, because there are certainly people who say, “Yeah, women have all the same rights to vote and speak and whatever, but they shouldn’t hold the same jobs/role in society.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, that wouldn’t really be feminism, which says that women should have the same opportunities. It’s not my problem if someone doesn’t like that I want to be a cop or don’t want to be a mother.

          1. Josh S*

            I’m not seeing the disagreement?

            Maybe I need to re-word the second half — “…and that women and men have nearly identical opportunity to fill the role of their desire, professionally and socially.”

            (The nearly identical part is because there’s some stuff guys physically can’t do, like nurse or give birth. :p)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I really, really don’t want to get into a debate about feminism here, but I was responding to the last paragraph of your comment, which said:

              That may get a bit more divisive, because there are certainly people who say, “Yeah, women have all the same rights to vote and speak and whatever, but they shouldn’t hold the same jobs/role in society.”

              1. Josh S*

                Right. I wouldn’t call those people feminists, though they fit Jamie’s definition. That’s why I wanted to add that bit.

                Now back to the topic. :)

        2. Jamie*

          There are more … militant strains of feminism, but I agree with your definition.

          That was my point, though. I don’t personally identify with the more militant beliefs of some – which is why a lot of women shy away from identifying as feminists. I did – until I saw the actual definition (which wasn’t mine – that was just a cut and paste from the dictionary) and saw that by definition I am one, as are most people – I would hope.

          I think the colloquial definition of ‘feminist’ is different than the actual definition – and colloquially it’s different for different individuals.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right, and it’s harmful for people to discuss feminism as if those more militant (and very minority) strains represent it, because then you get people saying, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” which is of course ridiculous because they do support equality of opportunity.

            1. businesslady*

              my husband teaches college students, & every year I hear about the huge number of women enrolled in his classes who identify as “not feminists.” because…they don’t hate men? because they wear makeup? it is a mystery. he does his best to explain, “um, why are you in college? is it so you can build a career or otherwise develop skills that will allow you to build a life for yourself according to your own wishes? surprise–you’re a feminist!” but sadly, this “feminist=militant man-hater” idea is all too common.

      2. Anonymous_J*

        It’s called misandry–is the hatred or dislike of men or boys.

        It’s just another form of sexism and bigotry.

        I’m a feminist, and I don’t like people pushing hateful stances, including people within my own movement. I think I’m especially sensitive, because my partner is a male survivor of domestic violence.

  2. Josh S*

    Bingo. At the risk of being un-PC, this is a big part of the problem I have with the way Affirmative Action is practiced. Some minority candidates think that because they are $minority, they should be given a leg up on the competition. Further, some hiring managers seem to think that they are required to give that leg up because of $minority_status. I think this is flawed reasoning in the places it occurs, and only going to tend toward hiring for mediocrity rather than looking for high-performers.

    Rather, I think Alison is dead on. If you want to take affirmative action to bring minorities to higher levels and greater prominence, take the time to invest in their long-term success, broaden the candidate pool, and then hire them for higher level positions based on their merits.

    Or even, perhaps, as the NFL has done with the “Rooney Rule” — each team hiring for a General Manager or Head Coach position must at least interview an African-American candidate. No requirement for quota or anything else, but it gives them a fair hearing at presenting their merits, and helps undermine the bias that had/has existed for ages with regards to having lots of African-American players, but only white coaches.

    To do any less is patronizing of the worst kind, IMO — akin to saying, “Well, you’re not really that great, but because you’re $minority, we’ll take you anyway.” How lousy is that, especially as an official position.

    (Please note, I think AA is a pretty good policy in theory — a lot of minority groups that ought to be represented in higher levels aren’t because of systemic bias or personal bigotry, so please don’t bash me on that. And yes, as an Anglo-Saxon male of pretty decent upbringing, I’m speaking from a position of privilege, so I recognize that my perspective may be skewed too. Please be kind. :/)

    1. Josh S*

      PS. Not implying that OP thinks she should be given a leg up on the competition because she is a woman. She even explicitly says so. Just trying to comment more generally on Affirmative Action as a policy, and how it sometimes gets misinterpreted in practice.

      1. Josh S*

        Aaaagh! Too rushed in trying to clarify!

        “…even explicitly says so” = “…even explicitly says she’s not looking for an easy ride up the career ladder, but is rather looking for more female representation in the higher levels of management.”

    2. Legal Eagle*

      ” If you want to take affirmative action to bring minorities to higher levels and greater prominence, take the time to invest in their long-term success, broaden the candidate pool, and then hire them for higher level positions based on their merits.”


      “Some minority candidates think that because they are $minority, they should be given a leg up on the competition.”

      -1. I don’t really know of any minority individuals who feel entitled to have a leg up. I do know several majority individuals, however, who feel like minority candidates have an unfair advantage when we usually do not. There have been situations, however, where my race actively counted against me. (e.g. once a client said he did not want to work with me because my skin was “too dark.” This was in 2010.)

      1. businesslady*

        just chiming in to agree that these “some minority candidates” sound like strawmen (straw minorities?) to me.

        I mean, sure, maybe you once knew someone who said something to that effect–no particular group is free of entitled jerks because that’s just how people are sometimes–but anyone who seems to actively have a chip on their shoulder probably has good reason for feeling that way. & either way, AA exists to override the pervasive discrimination that racial/ethnic minorities & women (who are not technically minorities in the demographic sense) still face.

        1. Xay*

          I would really like to know who these minority candidates are. In my life as a double minority, I think I have seen a couple of candidates who thought they should be hired for a position because of their minority status – and both of those cases were for positions that served minority populations.

          1. Joey*

            There was a post a while back where quite a few folks were arguing that black males are more qualified to teach impressionable black inner city boys solely because they were black.

            1. Xay*

              But in that post, the argument wasn’t just that only black men can teach black kids. It was that the shared cultural experience of being black was an important factor. Hence my qualifier about positions that serve minority populations – there is a view that people who are a member of a population are better positioned to serve that population (whether minority or majority really). I think that is a very different situation than saying that minorities expect to get any job just because they are minorities.

              I consider myself a strong straight ally, but I think that if I were up against a transgendered person for a position working with transgender youth and all things are equal, they would probably be the better choice because of their shared experience. That’s very different from if I were up against a transgender candidate for a data analyst position.

        2. Josh S*

          Businesslady: “AA exists to override the pervasive discrimination that racial/ethnic minorities & women … still face.”
          Absolutely agree.

          When I say “some minority candidates,” I’m speaking from experience of friends who have made comments along the lines of, “Well, at least I’ve got my [minority status] going for me,” or “Everyone else I saw interviewing was white, so I like my chances.” In both cases, my friends were applying for mid-level public-sector/government jobs in Chicago.

          I was a bit floored that their line of thinking included this, AA policies notwithstanding.

              1. Jamie*

                I am quite certain they weren’t either.

                Hiring practices in Chicago/Cook County for public sector and government jobs are a world unto themselves.

                The most entry level job you can think of is still part of the machine.

                Seriously – it’s not like other organizations.

                1. Xay*

                  There are alwyas places like that – I wouldn’t bother applying for positions in some parts of Georgia because I’m not part of the southern, good old boy network.

                2. Laura L*

                  “The most entry level job you can think of is still part of the machine.”

                  Yes! My mom, who has lived in the Chicago-area longer than I’ve been alive, told me this a few years ago. I was shocked.

                  Although now that I know more about city politics, I am much less shocked.

          1. Laura L*

            That’s probably because they were applying for “mid-level public-sector/government jobs in Chicago.”

            Chicago government hiring is… special.

            1. Rana*

              Yes. My husband works in the school system, and as part of his orientation there were a whole bunch of ethics questions he had to pass; most of them were focused on making it clear that things like hiring relatives and such were Not Acceptable, which to me suggests that that’s a common expectation.

              1. Josh S*

                The Second-in-command of a big Charter School network here in Chicago just ‘resigned’ (in quotes because it was a firing-with-benefits) because he had used his position to send public money to businesses owned by his relatives. Basically, he was allegedly routing taxpayer money to his family (and by implication, possibly receiving kickbacks) in a no-bid contract.

                Terribly unethical, but horrifyingly common in Chicago, where graft and “scratching your friends’ backs” seems to be the status quo.


                Reminds me of the quote from the poster: “I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.”

      2. Josh S*

        “I don’t really know of any minority individuals who feel entitled to have a leg up. I do know several majority individuals, however, who feel like minority candidates have an unfair advantage when we usually do not.”

        Agreed. I don’t think minority candidates have an unfair advantage. Really, it’s anything BUT an advantage, considering general disparities in opportunity, systemic bias, and personal bigotry (even unconscious). I think AA is very important, just implemented poorly/wrongly in some (perhaps many?) cases.

        See my response to Businesslady below for more.

        Also, every time I see your pseudonym, I’m reminded of the “Eagle Man” commercials that aired in Chicago in the 90s. “I’ve got something for youuuuuuu!” LOL

    3. BCW*

      Agreed. As a black man, I would never assume I should get anything just because they want to make a political statement or think there should be more black people in the role. If I’m not the best person for the job, so be it.

    4. Jubilance*

      As a double minority myself, I have yet to know a minority person who feels they have a leg up solely because they are a minority. If anything, they feel they are at a disadvantage & must work harder & be better than the rest of the candidates to get a fair shot. If anything, it’s companies & hiring managers that make bad hiring decisions in the name of diversity, by hiring or promoting people who happen to be minorities who don’t have the skills to be successful, that makes the entire process of AA look bad.

  3. Darcie*

    I agree with the need for more equal representation, but that’s the kind of point of view you should articulate AFTER you get the job. I think it will come off as too political if you mention it while you’re interviewing. I would much prefer a few fantastic women be hired who can bust stereotypes than more women who aren’t as great at the job.

    1. Legal Eagle*

      Agreed. One awesome female manager is going to do more to change the office’s gender stereotypes than five mediocre ones. In fact, the mediocre ones could end up affirming stereotypes in the minds of the other employees.

      1. Kay (OP)*

        I agree and if i’m not the best candidate then so be it. I genuinely didn’t mean it in the way of “please give me the job because of this” i meant “should I mention it all because I’ve had advice saying a should? and if so, how?!” it’s a mine-field of unwritten rules that I am trying to navigate. Thanks for your thoughts!

      2. Hous*

        This entire line of reasoning makes me really uncomfortable. You can’t treat hiring non-exceptional men over non-exceptional women as a neutral action here, or as the default. You should hire the best candidate for the job, always. But it’s not better for women or for office culture if, when you don’t have an awesome female candidate, you hire a male candidate regardless of how awesome HE is. And that’s what you have to do, if you’re only willing to hire the best of the best in women, for fear that hiring worse women will reflect poorly on the gender as a whole. Majority male offices aren’t going to combat those stereotypes–they’re going to affirm that there aren’t women good enough to work there, or maybe there’s one or two, but it’s a fluke.

        There are people who think non-exceptional women affirm all the bad thoughts they have about women as a whole. But we shouldn’t be catering to them, and factoring them into hiring decisions is massively unfair to everyone.

        1. Laura L*

          I agree!

          I’ve noticed this in certain areas, mainly sports and comedy. The women who were trailblazers had to be really, really good-Better than most men.

          My average running ability would not have gotten me on the cross country team if I had been born 30 years earlier. And it would not have convinced people that women should be allowed to run track or compete in marathons, even though average and slow male runners were generally allowed to.

  4. Jamie*

    FWIW in the US fewer than 9% of the people with my title are women.

    It would be awesome to see that number increase by women choosing this field and moving up. But I would never hire a woman over a man if he were more qualified – IMO our gender has to be irrelevant in hiring for our accomplishments to mean something.

    I know there are many who feel differently and that there should be a concerted effort to hire more women just to even the field – but reasonable people can disagree and I adamantly disagree with that.

    If one woman gets a job or gets promoted strictly to make a political point or create an image and it’s not backed up with the same skill for which you’d hire a man it hurts all of us.

    I can honestly say there is no compensation package sweet enough to entice me to take a job if my gender was a factor in the decision.

    1. Kathryn T.*

      My father, when he was hiring in his research laboratory, often said that if he was presented with two candidates with equivalent resumes but different genders, he would hire the woman every time. Why? Because often enough, a woman would have to be brighter, more dedicated, and harder working in order to have a resume equivalent to a man’s — particularly in the 70’s and 80’s. So that’s how he found the best candidates.

      1. -X-*

        I was going to say something similar, but more from the perspective of diversity being an inherent good in most organizations. That is, if you have two or more otherwise equally strong candidates, it makes sense to bring in the one that bring more diversity to the organization. That often might be in terms of gender or racial/ethnic background, but might even be in terms of economic class or educational background or other things.

        However, in most cases the candidate bringing this up him/herself is unseemly.

        Also, as a *gross* generalization, there is some truth to what Kathryn T’s father believed.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      When you’re talking about STEM careers, I think it needs to start with education, and encouraging girls to be interested in those careers. We are still, even in this day and age, allowing gender stereotypes to make a difference. I can’t tell you how many times just at the skating rink I have heard “Figure skating is for girls; hockey is for boys.” It makes me furious. There are some girl hockey players, but we only have one boy who skates at all, and no males who do it regularly here. Girls should do whatever interests them, whether it is hairstyling or designing IT systems, and the same goes for boys!

      Aside: We used to have a terrific male coach, but he left us for Disney on Ice. :(

  5. Legal Eagle*

    There is literally no reason to bring up your gender – they know that you are a woman. If the application process was somehow gender-blind, they will certainly know when they see you.

    You want to present yourself as the best candidate possible, regardless of gender/race/anything. The fact that you increase diversity should be a bonus.

  6. Patty*

    As a college prof in philosophy, I’ve looked at philosophical feminism from a few angles… ironic, since my discipline has a horrible record of gender bias..

    The “overly” feminist line bugged me too — because it represents an old (perhaps outdated) model of feminism, namely “2nd wave” feminism in which feminism seemed to argue implicitly that women are superior. That was just an example of the pendulum swing that happens in many movements.

    The best way for OP to be a “good” “feminist” is to be an excellent candidate for the job, get the job, then use her influence to argue that overall diversity is good — there is no substitute for the actual thoughts and experiences of people whose experience is different from the group. A perfect historical example is the way in which heart attacks were originally researched, using only men — and researched almost exclusively BY men – the conclusion was that, since women didn’t have the same symptoms of a hear attack as men, they didn’t have them. Nobody raised the question of alternative symptoms because men were assumed to represent both men and women in a medical context.

    In the workplace, this plays out in countless ways — women and other underrepresented groups often, just by their experiences in the world, bring up new questions and different interpretations of data — thus forcing the majority to reconsider their own points of view and offering alternative solutions. It may not be the case that those solutions are adopted, but asking the questions is often enough to break group-think.

    So, perhaps in the interview, if asked what she would change if given the chance, OP could mention general diversity and the positive impact it could bring to the organization. If asked for a follow-up, she could discuss effective mentoring of folks who generally move into her position. She could also discuss grass-roots types of efforts to get more underrepresented folks interested in STEM fields, which I’m assuming would be feeders for positions of her type, and express a willingness to support community involvement in those fields by doing outreach as appropriate to be a role-model for young folks who would otherwise believe that her position is only for men..

    The key to all of this is to focus on the solutions that a diversification of the group can bring to the larger organization. Thus, providing a solid reason that a diverse workforce is beneficial to the organization and perhaps to the field in general.

    1. BCW*

      For everyone who has a problem with the term “overly feminist” I think its easy to see why that is there. I’m all for equal treatment and opportunities for women. At the same time, there are websites like Jezebel that can’t write a single article without bashing men in the process, and those annoy the crap out of me. I think they’d consider themselves a feminist blog, but a lot of “feminism” resorts to man bashing. Maybe its a matter of semantics, but I think when the word “feminist” comes up, thats the picture many people have.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s not feminism, though. I don’t know exactly what they’re doing over there — I enjoy the site, but periodically their treatment of an issue is so unsophisticated and un-nuanced, and so blindly and ridiculously pro-women, that I cringe — but I think that might just be because they’re young?) — but it’s not feminism in the way it should normally be understood.

        1. BCW*

          Fair enough, and I’m not defending a certain point of view on what feminism is or isn’t. But I think, as with many things, the extreme actions of some have tarnished the entire term. Maybe there is a “better” choice of words than overly feminist, but you have to be willing to see that many people (men and women) do see some people and groups like this and don’t want to be associated with it. Another example just in politics. I’m all for gun control, but I’m not on the extreme end that thinks all guns should be banned. In face I have a license to own a firearm However many more conservative pro-gun people lump everyone together. Its not good, but I understand that it happens.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, but it’s like people who decide that all Muslims support terrorism, when hardly any do. It’s ridiculous (and I suspect agenda-driven to some extent).

          2. Jamie*

            Isn’t that all the more reason, though, for reasonable people to reclaim the term when it comes up?

            I mean if people have that slanted view of what “feminism” means, but if they know me as someone who doesn’t fit that stereotype and I use the word…it chips away at the stereotype a little bit.

            I have found, not just with this, that people make a lot of assumptions about who believes what based on superficial criteria. I’ve absolutely had people assume I would be opposed to gay marriage, or decriminalization of marijuana, or gun control when it’s come up in conversation.

            Why? Because I’m white, middle-class, live in a fairly conservative suburb, am married to a cop, I’m fiscally conservative, was a SAHM for many years and loved it, am a member of an organized religion? Who knows – but the assumptions get made all the time and they aren’t correct. So without being strident or getting on a soapbox if you have the conversation the point can be made. One – stop assuming you know someone’s leanings based on their demographics but it also opens up their mind to what kind of people support “those things.”

            IOW all kinds of people support all kinds of positions – and it’s not just a bunch of people who are “not like you” waiving signs on TV. Sometimes people very much like you agree came to the same logical conclusions as the people not like you. Sometimes this can cause someone to open their mind and rethink issues to decide for themselves what they really believe – and not just following the lock step of either the left or the right, whichever side with whom they identify.

            Now, I don’t go looking for ways to work my opinions into the conversation – heck I avoid conversations IRL – and I’m certainly not out to change anyone’s mind about anything – but if the opportunity to put a rational face to incorrect and stereotyped assumptions there is nothing wrong with taking the opportunity.

            1. khilde*

              “Isn’t that all the more reason, though, for reasonable people to reclaim the term when it comes up?”

              Good point, I like the way you put this.

            2. A Bug!*

              Isn’t that all the more reason, though, for reasonable people to reclaim the term when it comes up?

              I cancelled several replies from other threads in here that boiled down to exactly this. If the only people who will publicly identify as members of a given group are the people who hold the most radical or controversial (or ridiculous) viewpoints, then everyone’s impression of that group will be flawed.

              People who shy away from being associated with feminism although they believe in the fundamental ideals of feminism, just because they don’t like the negative connotations of the word “feminism”, help perpetuate those negative connotations.

              You don’t have to agree with all feminists on all subjects in order to be a feminist. To do so would be impossible! But even if you don’t like the word “feminist”, if you think ” political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” sounds like something we should promote, then you’re a feminist, and if you don’t like the color of the paint on that “feminist” brush? You’re in an excellent position to help dilute it with something more reasonable.

              1. Heather*

                Well damn. Alison, Jamie, and A Bug have already said exactly what I was about to say, and probably more clearly than I would have, so I’ll just throw in my +1!

        2. K*

          Yeah, agreed. I don’t think the issue with Jezebel is that it’s “too feminist;” I think the issue with Jezebel is that it’s often not very thoughtful, intelligent, or nuanced. (I think some of this is because they know what get page views on the Internet.)

          1. A Bug!*

            A lot of blogs suffer from this. They sacrifice their integrity for page-views. I read Jezebel on occasion but I have very little respect for it; there’s far too much hypocrisy in the things they post and it bothers me a little bit that it’s considered a feminist blog.

            It seems more like high-school-level “grrl power” to me, with a mindset that there are people it’s okay to bag on and people that it’s not, and the deciding factor is whether or not the editors and writers like you.

            1. Heather*

              Sometimes I think Jezebel is more about getting a reaction than it is about making and defending an actual argument. Which would be fine if it were billed as a humor site, but it’s not.

            2. Jane Doe*

              I agree. I think a lot of blogs end up pandering to the lowest common denominator in their target market. It’s much easier to get page views (and comments) if you traffic in faux outrage than in reasoned, intelligent debate, probably in part because people who prefer intelligent debate (or who have a more mature/experienced viewpoint) are not able to spend hours every day online arguing with other people. Jezebel is not a reliable indicator of what feminists are like any more than Cosmo is a reliable indicator of what women in general are like.

          2. Rana*

            Agreed. Jezebel is catty, male-bashy, shallow and sometimes mean… and it is frequently (but not consistently) feminist.

            That doesn’t mean feminist = catty, male-bashy, shallow, and mean.

            It means that some women are both feminists andimperfect human beings who behave badly, not that feminism requires them to behave badly.

      2. Jen in RO*

        It’s kinda sad, but man-bashing is also what I think about when I hear “feminism”. I’m a feminist (in my understanding of the word), but after seeing the behavior of many other women who also call themselves feminists… I’d rather not be associated with that. (My “best” memory is getting banned from a “feminist” community after I suggested that maybe a conversation was in order if a woman’s boyfriend had yelled at her, instead of the instant dumping the rest of the commenters suggested. I feel sorry for women who were abused by their partners, but that doesn’t mean every man who loses his temper is an abuser waiting for happen.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m sorry to pluck you out as the example, Jen, but could we please stop repeating this sort of thing? You know that’s not what feminism is about, any more than supporting equal treatment for racial minorities is about bashing other races. If you’ve encountered people who behave that way, you should set them straight and/or ignore them, but not let them hijack how you see the concept. It’s so frustrating to me to see this sort of thing repeated over and over as if it somehow taints feminism as a concept.

          (And frankly, that conversation with your friends sounds like that group of people just had a really poor understanding of relationships and conflict resolution, not like it was even about feminism.)

          1. Jen in RO*

            Not my friends, thankfully, just a group of internet strangers who did seem to have a poor understanding of many things. Getting banned was a good thing. I won’t drag this on, but they didn’t change the way *I* see the concept, but the way other people might see it, and that’s what annoys me.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Eh, there are loons and unsophisticated thinkers in any large group. They don’t represent the whole — and people who decide that they do generally have some reason of their own for it.

      3. Xay*

        Jezebel isn’t a feminist blog though. It’s a blog that flogs pro-women issues for the sake of page views, no matter whether those page views are coming from people who agree or disagree.

        It’s like saying that MRA sites represent the views of all men.

      4. Katniss*

        Jezebel is not a feminist site by a long shot. And I’d like to see some evidence of the “male bashing” you mention.

        1. BCW*

          Ok, if you have ever read an article and don’t find it as male bashing, then there is no point in posting responses, I’m sure you’ll find ways to justify them. But sure, I’ll play along. There is currently a section that says “Tell us your worst Valentines Day Stories”. The couple sentences articulate the male bashing perfectly.

          “Or maybe you’ve just started dating someone but he thinks it’s too soon to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but it sure wasn’t too soon for him to celebrate his penis with a good old fashioned blow job from you. Tell him what you think of his priorities. Just let it all hang out. Tell us, not them.”

          So right here, instead of it assuming that it was a bad valentines day because you had to work or something, it jumps right to basically saying guys don’t want anything but sex but won’t celebrate with you. ”

          That was just one I got from about 1 minute on the site.

          1. Katniss*

            As I said above, Jezabel is hardly a feminist site, so I’m not sure seeing what you read as “male bashing” there has to do with feminism.

            On top of that, that quote doesn’t imply anything about all men or even men in general.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think they consider themselves one, though, and I think that’s what BCW meant.

              Of course, that quote about the blow jobs is like the very opposite of feminism — god forbid women take ownership over their own sexual choices.

      5. some black guy who got lucky in life*

        I’m a guy and while Jezebel is over-the-top, there’s some and occassionally a lot lot of truth in what they say. Too much broad brush generalizations for sure, but they surface stuff that needs to be said.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      A really great organization for supporting women in STEM is the Anita Borg Institute. They have done a lot of research into the micro-inequities that push women down. Good reading for anyone that wants to increase thier awareness of issues. “What we can measure we can change.”

  7. Jamie*

    I’m curious about another factor – gender aside…

    The OP spoke of this being a high level management position – but she’s only been at her company 18 months and has had 3 jobs in 6 years – that’s not a lot of time at any one company no matter how the split comes out.

    Is it common in your company to promote to high level management – which I’m interpreting as upper management – with such a short time at the company?

    I’m assuming commercial pilot = large company, in which case I think it’s typically a longer climb …but if that’s not the case I can see it moving faster in an SMB.

    1. Mimi*

      I was thinking the same thing. I don’t know the other candidates being considered (obviously), but maybe the OP isn’t the strongest candidate just based on her experience. But “you should hire me because you need more female representation, and…..oh, hey! I just so happen to be a woman!” shouldn’t factor into it.

    2. Meghan*

      I’m far from an expert, I’ve only dated someone in aviation but I think things are pretty different in the Av industry right now. I’m thinking she flies for a regional airline (much smaller than the mainliners) due to the frequent turnover she alluded to (3 jobs in, essentially, 4 years). This type of move into management might not be so uncommon.

  8. Kay (OP)*


    I’m feeling slightly intimidated about responding to this post but I wanted to clear some things up that I might not have explained very well.

    I should probably start with where this question came from. I know a manager in the company who I went to for advice about the interview. We spoke regarding the role and future prospects. This is a temporary role to allow people like myself a chance to get more involved with the company and develop our skills in leadership. It’s not high level management, it is a starting block. He mentioned that I’m young (most managers are older than myself and have been in the company a long time – not saying this is a bad thing!!) and i’m a woman and we need more in aviation. So the reason I emailed Alison (thank you for responding!) was how do you articulate something like this if at all. I view the management in my company as a bit of a clique and the term “overly feminist” was not what I feel I am just worried about how I might come across if I take my managers advice and use this “USP”. And i’m sorry if i caused any offence by using this term, i don’t think I had thought it through well enough and if asked again I would say, “I don’t want to be seen to be asking for a leg up and for the job because i am female.”

    What Patty mentioned in the comments regarding – working as a mentor is exactly what I am doing, I think there need to be more female pilots and there fore I actively support all pilots and give advice on what my life is like and how best to approach technical interviews etc, so thank you Patty, that is a great way of articulating what I am getting at. I want there to be equality in aviation, all women I talk to about my job have said in some form or another “i could never do that job i am not clever enough” which i find so frustrating and want to be a positive role model that if you work hard you can do it whether a man or a woman. And that was all I meant with regards to the management as well. If we can’t even get women into management in our company how are we going to recruit more female pilots it just doesn’t feel like an accurate representation. But maybe that is another issue?

    To clarify, I would never want a leg up for being female as I said, and I wouldn’t want the job because I am female if there was a male more qualified! That wasn’t my question at all. I am just trying to navigate the mine-field that is interviewing and take on as much advice as possible but also recognise what advice is valuable and what i can disregard.

    I asked you, Alison, because I have really enjoyed learning from your site and although a contentious topic I knew I would get a fair response. Thank you again for spending the time replying to me. I hope my comment has cleared a few things up regarding the kind of person I am and that you recognise I am just trying to learn as much as possible so i don’t mess up in my interview!

    1. some black guy who got lucky in life*

      Interesting situation. I hope your manager can take the lead in surfacing the need for more women with his colleagues.

    2. Josh S*

      I don’t particularly think you needed to clarify. But thank you for being part of this conversation.

      And MEGA PROPS to you for wanting to encourage your fellow (my, that sounds like a patriarchal term now, doesn’t it? ;p) female co-workers to work hard and move up. That’s something that not enough people do in the professional world, female or otherwise, manager or otherwise. Thank you for doing that.

    3. khilde*

      I think there need to be more female pilots and there fore I actively support all pilots and give advice on what my life is like and how best to approach technical interviews etc, so thank you Patty, that is a great way of articulating what I am getting at. I want there to be equality in aviation, all women I talk to about my job have said in some form or another “i could never do that job i am not clever enough” which i find so frustrating and want to be a positive role model that if you work hard you can do it whether a man or a woman.”

      Gosh, I think saying some form of this when it comes time for it would be good. I liked what you said here and you gave a specific example of what you mean by being a positive role model (e.g. the “I could never do this” comment you hear). Maybe really solidify your beliefs and ideals around this topic and look for ways to weave it into the interview questions when appropriate or when there’s a good tie in. But I just really liked what you said here. Good luck.

      1. Rana*

        Yes. I think the “I’d like to be a positive role model” approach would work well, because those who are attentive to diversity issues would pick up on what your being female might mean in terms of that, but it’s not as blatant as “hire me because I’m female.” And, honestly, wouldn’t an employer want all their employees to be positive role models for future employees and new employees?

      1. Kay (OP)*

        Thanks Alison, as you can tell I’m on a steep learning curve and your site has been a massive help and source of material to develop my skills!

        ps. What does OP stand for?

    4. Zed*

      OP, you mention that you would be (or would be interested in) working as a mentor to other pilots. Perhaps that is where you could bring up these sentiments.

      “Should I get this position, one of my goals is to support and mentor newer pilots, especially those who belong to underrepresented groups who have had fewer opportunities to succeed. My personal experience tells me that women in particular feel that they are not smart or skilled enough to enter this field, and as a woman I feel it is important for me to encourage other women who are interested in aviation.”

    5. Dan*

      Kay is right. As a pilot and former airline employee myself, I can attest to the general lack of women on the flight deck — it’s particularly bad for this occupation. Having an all-female flight crew (only two people!) is an extremely rare event.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I want there to be equality in aviation, all women I talk to about my job have said in some form or another “i could never do that job i am not clever enough” which i find so frustrating and want to be a positive role model that if you work hard you can do it whether a man or a woman.

      Arrgh! I hate when people do that, especially other women. It’s different when, say, someone is telling me they couldn’t fix a car because they don’t know how, or seem to have no affinity for tools, or even hate getting greasy. Those are legitimate reasons to not do it that aren’t self-deprecating or sexist. I don’t like to hear people say they are dumb because they are female or just in general.

        1. Min*

          I once had a female coworker look at my (admittely shabby) shoes and tell me, “Your husband needs to buy you new shoes.” She couldn’t for the life of her understand what bothered me about that statement.

          She would also use the fact that she was a woman as an excuse for why should couldn’t perform certain tasks and to also discourage the rest of us from doing so, too.

          I don’t know what is wrong with these people, but they’re definitely out there.

  9. Xay*

    The problem with saying you are a woman to get the job has nothing to do with being PC or overly feminist. The problem is that you are citing your gender as a qualification when it isn’t. Just because women are underrepresented in your field does not mean that your gender is a qualification.

    1. some black guy who got lucky in life*

      But it may have value to the company. Not sure if that makes it a qualification, but it’s something that may be valuable.

      1. Xay*

        It may have value and I think that other commenters have framed it in a way that it shows that value. But to go in saying bascially hire me because you don’t have any other women in leadership doesn’t express that value.

        1. Kay (OP)*

          And I agree with you Xay which is why I asked Alison for help. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and comment!

  10. The B*

    At my current job, they asked me why I wanted to work there and I gave a few reasons. One included that they had been named something like one of the Top Ten Best Diversity Employers. Knowing they had a diversity strategy (recruiting, mentoring, workshops, education opportunities) was important to me because it showed they were interested in recruiting and supporting diverse employees. I was happy to work in a place that is interested in recruiting people with disabilities, that had positive spaces for gays and lesbians, and the like. However, at my interview I didn’t say: “You should hire me because I’m X.”
    I think if you get the job it would certainly be suitable for you to bring up the point with HR that they might want to think about fostering a more diverse application pool (or mentoring programs, etc). But I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that they hire you because you’re a woman at the interview point.

  11. Joey*

    I have a somewhat different view. I agree that its wildly inappropriAte to use it as a selling point in the way the op describes. I think that’s likely interpreted as an allegation of discrimination. But I think it would be fine and really advantageous to describe it as something that’s motivated you to pursue leadership positions in aviation in general. You know- that its an industry where theres not a lot of women pilots and you used that as motivation to excel. But of course in the end its your qualifications. I’d be somewhat insulted if I got a job because I’m the token woman.

  12. PEBCAK*

    Sometimes, being female/black/Jewish/disabled/whathaveyou correlates very strongly to other traits that may indeed be assets, largely because being a member of X group has honed that. So, it might be valuable take a minute to think about how your experiences, as a woman, may have led you to manage or work in certain ways that could enhance the team. Once you do this sort of “personal inventory”, you’d then want to think of examples that show these traits and present them just like any others in an interview, though, and without any value judgment or criticism of the existing team.

    For example, women are stereotyped as being more collaborative and less competitive than men. Is that true of you? If so, maybe you want to think of some examples where you’ve demonstrated good collaboration.

    It’s a fine line, because you don’t want to play into stereotypes, but the whole idea of diversity is not diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather how different life experiences can shape people differently in such a way that the team is strengthened by drawing on each of them.

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