My company only wants me to interview women for a position is this equitable?

Hi community, I am a lead recruiter at a start-up and the company wants to increase diversity on the tech side of things (as do I). The founders have specified they would like to hire a female PM and that I should only move forward with candidates who are female PMs.

Honestly, I think this is a little inequitable and does go against "we do not discriminate based on race, religion, gender" etc that we are holding ourselves to.... but also at the same time the end goal is a positive one. I am just having trouble really executing on this request... any advice from others who have had similar requests or any thoughts would be appreciated!



It's a bit odd but that's because it is contrarian. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt because to your point the end goal is good ad it comes from good intention, in terms of execution, it is a bit "clumsy". Why don't you tell them you love the end goal and are all in favor but actually think it goes against the policies. You can tell them that you want to take an extra look at women candidates but not actively exclude male in the process, especially as you build a pipeline of talent (or perhaps can refer candidates to companies you know and like).
My company is all women and AFAB non-binary folk and we plan on keeping it that way because they are historically and currently under-represented in the field. When you are talking about improving equitably in the workplace, excluding groups that have been previously advantaged in the space by virtue of race/gender/etc (like cis-het white men have been) does not fall into the category of ‘exclusion based on race/gender’. Much like prioritising Black folk or POC in the hiring process to ensure equal representation, the same goes for prioritising women/AFAB non-binary folk. This is simply known as an Employment Equity hire and is commonplace these days as we work towards a more equal world. It would be nice to be able to hire based solely on merit, but due to the massive biases in the system, that is not yet possible, as cis-het white men are frequently read as more competent purely based on their race and gender. And they have probably had more opportunities to gain experience and make the right connections than others with similar skills. There is a reason, after all, that you are posting this question in a women-only tech space. I suggest you spend some time reflecting on why a space like this is necessary in the world we live in. It may bring you some understanding of why it’s ok to prioritise certain groups when hiring in this industry.
Hi Larissa,From the perspective of inclusivity and respect, it’s important not to include AFAB non binary folks while excluding AMAB non binary folks for several reasons. Notably, there is a wide and diverse range of non binary identities and expressions that are irrespective of their assigned genders. For example, an AMAB agender person is no more or less non binary than an AFAB one. There are extremely masc AFAB nonbinary folks who are on testosterone and identify more closely with men while there are also AMAB non binary demi-women. Boiling down a non binary person’s individual and complex identity to their binary assigned sex at birth doesn’t really respect who they are and carries an unconscious transphobic bias. Beyond hiring in spaces that need to be gendered, it’s better to say something like “Women and non-binary folks comfortable in a women-centric space.” I also like how this article describes the issue and especially their suggestion “We’re looking for proposals from creators with underrepresented genders. This includes cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are otherwise marginalized”
This is a really interesting question and I understand, and agree with, your hesitation. I had held the same views and felt it unfair to cherry pick situations when discrimination is 'acceptable'. However, I heard a talk that reframed it for me. Instead of viewing the micro situation, look at it from a macro view ie, looking at the organisation as a whole, would you be discriminating against men by taking this action? Could a man justifiably argue discrimination if, say, 70% of PMs are male already. On that basis, it would make me more comfortable moving forward with non-male candidates as they are already over-represented within the organisation. Does that make sense at all? I'm not sure if I've explained myself well!
yes, I like the data points from the current team to add highlights and insights!
I appreciate the point you make. Respectfully, the need to reframe it in order to justify what constitutes 'acceptable' discrimination is a dead giveaway that something feels ethically wrong about this.
You're right, maybe the word reframe doesn't sit well with some. What I mean by that is taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture ie that the organisation has a strong current bias that's needs addressing
Totally agree!
It's interesting to hear other responses here.It's discriminatory to exclude a candidate based on their gender...if I found out I was included or excluded on this basis alone, I'd be offended as a candidate. As a POC and woman, I am torn about the idea of getting a job because of my identity rather than skill set as it doesn't position me well for success at the company. I also think this puts you in an iffy place as a recruiter. What you're defining as "female" here is based on your personal judgement as I'm assuming you're not directly asking candidates to qualify their gender for you.I think it makes sense to go out of your way to recruit great female candidates by targeting these candidates individually or from certain networks or groups. I also think if you have qualified candidates who you don't identify as female, it's worth considering them if you want the best person for the job.
While I agree that the goal here is laudable, the approach sounds illegal. I'm not sure what state you're based in, but this resource from the California ACLU gives good guidance on how to work on increasing representation while staying within the bounds of what's legally permissible: have to make sure that "The program does not unduly harm members of non-targeted groups, such as by refusing to hire any people from those groups, or firing such individuals in order to reach the numerical target." What the founders are asking you to do sounds to me like refusing to hire non-female candidates.
Yes, this is what I was getting at in my comment, that it truly is illegal (while I am sure the police will not be breaking down our doors) it is inconsistent with what I believe to be an equitable recruiting process. My approach would be: let's increase women applicants by XX percentage and focus 100% on sourcing outreach on finding women in this particular role.2nd: We can also start thinking about improving diversity on other teams and other roles more intentionally instead of just this 1 role which will have a trickle-down effect by increasing female headcount we can attract more female employees for the future. What do you think of this approach?
That makes a ton of sense. Investing in sourcing diverse applicants is a great way to get more representation into your candidate pool. Interviewing qualified male candidates for the role will also demonstrate that the process is truly competitive and drive home the point that you're hiring the best qualified applicant (who may happen to be female), not hiring a woman regardless of whether she's the most qualified person for the role. I think that'll help set up your new PM for success from day 1.
I would take a step back and ask why they are approaching it this way. Is it because they have so few women employees? If so, why? Simply hiring more women will not solve the problem if there are underlying issues that kept women away - such as a bad reputation, a "bro" culture, expectations that aren't accommodating to folks who might be primary caregivers for a family member, job descriptions written in a way that discourage women from applying, etc. Also, what are they doing to support the pipeline of women in the industry? Are they sponsoring events? Supporting girls who code or women in STEM type of organizations? Recruiting from universities that have a large population of female students, especially in STEM? Providing mentorship? Etc. Interviewing only female candidates seems like a really lazy way to try to improve the issue of women being underrepresented in tech/STEM.
This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
A thing I've seen work that I really like is not specifying that you can only choose candidates from a specific group, but instead specifying the number of candidates who must be in the pool at each stage in order to move on. So you might say, we won't start interviewing until over 50% of our qualified interview pool is female. So if you're looking at resumes and only see 6 men and 2 women you want to interview, then you need to keep collecting resumes until you get to 50/50 in your interview pool. So those six men aren't losing out - you're just making sure you've got a pipeline of the most qualified people you can get and going out to look for more. And then you might say, we won't go to a second round unless at least 50% of the people who move to the next round are women. So if three men and one woman make it to a second round interview, then you keep recruiting into first round interviews until you get to at least 50/50 ready to go to the next round. Then you do that to get to the next round as well. And in the last round, you choose the best candidate you interviewed. This way, you're giving everyone a fair evaluation based on their skills and experience, making sure that you're recruiting in a way that brings in the kind of people you're looking for, and I like that it assumes that there are plenty of qualified people of the demographic you're looking for out there, you just have to find them. It also plays nicely with the findings of this study: You're more likely to hire someone outside the status quo if there is more than one candidate outside the status quo. So though this process might not guarantee you end up making an offer to a woman, it greatly increases your chances. And I believe it also has the advantage of being very legal!(Edited to add: I don't mean to suggest here that men and women are the only genders you'd find or recruit!)
Just being on the other side of this, every time we were recruiting for positions on our investment team, the recruiters kept sending us male profiles, so at one point we had to say we specifically wanted women for the role (to balance out the recruitment process & team). Another point, I think concerns on being equitable viewing men and women within the same process isn't particularly equitable anyway or as simple as it seems, some of the female candidates will have gone through many more barriers/prejudice in their career compared to their male peers so may not compare the same on paper, which may result in them getting filtered out, while still having the same training, experience & ability. It's about leveling the playing field. Some of your underlying concern may be around whether you are sending this female candidate into a situation where they are being set up to fail (eg, the token female). That could be valid and should be further explored.