A feminist’s fight in a boy’s club culture

So I sent in an expression of interest for the role, with a formal application on the HR system to follow as the second step.  Within a day of receiving my expression of interest, I had an email back from the female HR Manager asking me for an informal chat. Great, I thought.  I had questions and I was keen to get input from HR.

Our informal chat took place that afternoon.  I expressed a keen interest in the role and said that I would appreciate any help she would be kind enough to offer. This was the help that I received.  I was told flatly that I shouldn’t apply for the role. I was confused and asked why.  I was told that I shouldn’t apply because I didn’t fulfil the criteria.  I countered saying that she must be mistaken because I did fulfil the criteria.  She said again that I shouldn’t apply because I wouldn’t get the role and it would be a waste of my time to apply. I fumbled awkwardly through an end to the conversation and went back to  my desk.

What the hell was going on? Bewildered after this odd exchange with the HR Manager, I sought the advice of my boss. I had previously discussed my applying for the role with him and he had encouraged it, so I felt that he would be able to clear up this misunderstanding. I told him what had happened and he said he would ask some questions and find out more information.

A day later we met up to discuss what he had found out.  I was confident that he would have gotten to the bottom of whatever was going on and would be able to speak with the HR Manager and clear things up. He had repeatedly stated that my work was of a high standard above my pay-grade and that I was capable of advancement.

The conversation that transpired torpedoed any ideals that I had harboured previously about the company believing in merit based appointments.

In a long and winding fashion, I was able to illicit this information indirectly from my boss.  The VP had already chosen two candidates that he wanted to apply for the role, based on the fact that this role, whilst reporting to a global manager, would also be a leadership position on his team.  He liked his team male, as the off-site leadership meetings he held were opportunities for drinking debauchery and sports including bike riding and he didn’t think a female would fit in with his team.  He was determined that ideally one of his favourite drinking buddies who wasn’t currently on the leadership team would get this role.  If not, his fall back position was a second of his drinking buddies already on the leadership team. Neither of these candidates fulfilled the criteria, possessing only 2/5 and 3/5 of the role requirements respectively, but as the main criteria was to be a drinking buddy on the leadership team, this didn’t matter.

That was when I knew two things for certain. Firstly, I was never going to succeed no matter what I did. Secondly, I was going to do everything in my power to fight for the role anyway and then leave.

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