Why I only want to hire women: Because it’s 2015

In case you haven’t seen the news recently about women in the workplace, Buzzfeed just broke a story about a company whose job posting on LinkedIn indicated that they “preferred female candidates” due to the job requiring “receptionist work”.

You read that right. Women preferred because it’s a receptionist role. It reads like a cringeworthy joke you’d hear at a party, with hushed whispers immediately after saying, “Dude, you can’t say things like that!”.

It’s all a joke…

It is a joke because I’m sure the company will issue an apology soon, if they haven’t already. It’s a joke because any good PR firm will call this job posting a satirical post made to go viral; the firm in question is an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) firm, after all, and going viral is their business. It’s a joke because the world will get up in arms for 24 hours before we all settle back into our lives. And it’s a joke because that company will still get many applicants for that role because the reality for many people (women or not) is that they cannot afford to forgo any paying job opportunity in the name of fighting sexism in the workplace (one women event commented on the Buzzfeed article saying she’d still apply for the job because it is, well, a job).

… But no one’s laughing

No one is laughing because we, the corporate world, have shown the world yet again that we think equality is nothing more than a pun. No one is laughing because all too many women will read this, or any other article about that posting, and think “honestly, all people hiring for these types of roles probably think that – these ones were just dumb enough to put it on the job description and get caught”. And no one is laughing because we all know where this conversation will go: cries of sexism, demands to honor free speech, and finally, apathy. Apathy until the next time this happens, when the uproar starts again. When it happens enough times, people will begin to question whether sexism really can be fixed, since changing other people’s minds is such a daunting, if not impossible, task.

So let’s change the conversation

However, it doesn’t have to end that way. We don’t have to choose between getting on with our lives and fighting against sexism in the world. We, the working world made up of every individual employee, can make a choice to stop conversations around the impossibility of changing people’s minds and shift them to productive questions and talks. How do we do that? Simple: make the commitment, as an individual, to create your own culture of inclusion: Ask about your colleagues’ experiences and listen to their responses. Admit you are confused/angry/saddened/worried/etc and show that you have compassion for those going through issues even if you don’t fully understand those struggles yourself, yet. And, finally, when something like this job posting does happen (as it always will) and you recognize the problem at hand, speak up.

Many individuals have commented, made their thoughts known, and called out the company in question on LinkedIn and other social media blogs. I salute those individuals because they have already made an individual commitment to inclusion, and you can, too.