Going about the world as a woman is very different from doing so as a man, not because of any innate biological difference but because women are routinely viewed as objects. This view shows up everywhere, including in the workplace, so there are many job interview issues women worry about that men often don't. This can make the process of being under consideration for a job doubly stressful for women.
In 2016, women are more active in the workforce and more educated than at other points in recent history, but this is a double-edged sword: As more and more women enter industries and fields where they've been silenced, more are running up against sexist barriers. In the tech industry, for example, 60 percent of women say they've been sexually harassed, according to the survey Elephant in the Valley . And this year's Deloitte Millennial Survey found that half of women feel they're being overlooked for leadership roles at their companies. These barriers don't just present themselves while a woman is working at a company; they're also evident during the application and interview processes.
Here are some thoughts that might run through a woman's mind when she's getting ready for a job interview that rarely run through men's minds in the same situation:
1. "Am I The Only Woman They're Considering?"
Granted, there are a few fields where women are the majority, but the most esteemed industries tend to be male-dominated, and in these workplaces, women often feel pressure to represent all women or fear that they'll be viewed as the token woman. This fear is justified: According to a recent analysis of hiring decisions at a university published in Harvard Business Review, when there's only one woman candidate among the finalists, she has a zero chance of being hired. Yup — zip. Same goes for people of color. White men don't have to worry about this in most fields, where they constitute the majority of employees and candidates.
2. "Do I Look OK?"
Men might think about how professionally they want to dress for job interviews, but that typically just involves debating how casually or formally to dress. Women feel pressure to consider how to do their hair and makeup to look professional but not sexy, whether their clothing could be interpreted as too revealing, whether their outfit could be interpreted as not "put-together" enough, and a slew of other factors that people judge them for on a regular basis.
3. "Will They Find Out About My Family Situation?"
Being a husband or father isn't generally viewed as a disadvantage to a company, but too often, women feel pressure to hide their wedding rings or pregnancies so that interviewers will believe them when they say they're planning to devote a lot of time to their jobs. Even though it's technically illegal at this point, firing women for being pregnant is still not unheard of, and neither is deciding not to hire a woman because she has kids or might soon. A male acquaintance once told me he felt it was "a risk to hire women" because she could get pregnant and leave, and this attitude prevails at many companies.
4. "Am I Coming Off As Too Aggressive?"
Women are often accused of being too aggressive for expressing themselves assertively while men are praised for doing so. According to the survey Elephant in the Valley, 84 percent of women in the tech industry have been called too aggressive at work. In interviews, many women are already anticipating being penalized in this way and taking care not to overstate their opinions.
5. "Am I Coming Off As Not Aggressive Enough?"
While we're taught that being "bossy" is "unfeminine," we're also taught that it's essential to come off like good leaders. According to a study in Psychological Bulletin, people associate leadership with "masculine" traits like strength and assertiveness. So, you would think it would benefit you to act "masculine" in an interview for a position requiring leadership skills. But for women, it's not that simple — because acting "masculine" can also lead to criticism for bucking gender norms. Basically, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and our language is policed no matter how we speak in interviews or elsewhere. Interviewers, supervisors, and co-workers should be focused on what a woman is saying, not what vocal inflection she uses to say it.