Ways to screen out the female applicants

A comment by Leslie Brown at Pharyngula on a post about geekbro culture.

First time commenter, this issue really chaps my hide. I was really keen to work in computers when I was in my 20s, way back in 1979. I applied for a place on a government run programming course, and sat an aptitude test along with about 250 others. I found the test quite straightforward, completed it in about half the allotted 2 hours, and was eventually called for an interview. I was told that even though I’d scored exceptionally highly on the aptitude test, they couldn’t offer me one of the 12 places available, as I might have children! Despite explaining that I’d recently split from my husband, and also had no desire ever to have children (and I never did*) they didn’t waver in being discriminatory asses. They did say that because of my exceptional test score they would have to put me on the reserve list, but none of the men who got a place through positive (& I later realised unlawful) discrimination dropped out. I suppose that I’m not the only woman treated that way, and that some of those privileged men are now in charge, assumjng their innate superiority rather than that some of their positions are down to discrimination.

I got my own back later by working for our Equal Opportunities Commission and taking comfort in helping other women take cases against that government organisation.


  1. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Sure, I was filling in an open application for a job at a small local bank and the questions about marital status and number of kids were actually in the form, right after asking about my education. Pissed me right off.

  2. yahweh says

    Interesting, particularly if this was a UK government department as such discrimination was illegal even then IMRC.

    A girl friend of mine did a similar training course around that time. They were highly effective courses and she, like 95% of attendees, found work in IT straight after she had finished.

    It would be interesting to know how much women still experience this in the UK. Companies can get into big trouble for this so, where it still go on, I expect it is far more covert. Possibly.

    More depressingly, I have never had to screen out female applicants in my small IT speciality. Of hundreds of CVs which have passed over my desk for the couple of dozen positions for which I have recruited, I have only ever seen three female ones. (I hired one of them – a first rate unix sysadmin).

  3. Ysanne says

    Wow, this level of directness, and the implied confidence in open discrimination, is breathtaking. I’d always thought that at least people try to be sneaky about such illegal practices.
    The interview for my current job did not include any questions about family planning (the managers’ mantra is “don’t stay too long, family goes first” for parents of any sex), but they had this one: “How well can you deal with sexist men and their jokes?”. They know our clients. :-/

  4. Thinker says

    I majored in computer science in the early 1980s. Despite being in the top of my class, I had to deal with the assumption that weak female brains just couldn’t cope with computers. I wish I could say it got better in the last 3 decades, but only barely has it gotten better.

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