WTF #11: Is It OK to Hire Women?

WTF #11: Is It OK to Hire Women?

The graphic to the right is where FluxCorp is at right now. As far as hi-tech companies go, FluxCorp is a pretty old company, stretching back decades, so you can consider it quite established. Still, the company has been doing well financially recently, so it’s also growing, just not in North America. It is, however, growing quite rapidly in both China and India. And this is where I come in. I’m currently in Shanghai to hire a big wad of people to add to an already bigger wad of people here. The growth has been so rapid that FluxCorp China has literally run out of cubicle space. There are plans now to dismantle several recreational areas in order to make room for new hires. Much grumbling will ensue, no doubt.

Shanghai is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The city is vibrant and is as modern as any you will find in the West. The subway system is one of the most extensive in the world and is kept immaculately clean, as are the city streets. The culture is unfamiliar, of course, but only vaguely so, at least on the surface. That’s because although I wasn’t raised in the People’s Republic, I do have some conversational Mandarin due to my cultural background. But as one scratches a bit more under that cultural veneer, as I did in interviewing local candidates last week, some stark contrasts come into play. A certain uneasiness came over me as the week progressed, eventually culminating in a facepalm moment. I suppose this is the same sort of uneasiness that gnaws at you all week, thinking that there is something that you should be doing, only to come home at the end of week and realizing today is your wife’s birthday and you didn’t get her anything. Well, it’s kind of like that, but different.

To give you an example of what I mean, let’s take a look at a redacted version of the top portion of one of the resumes I received for consideration:

I’ve labelled each field with a number. Let’s quickly go over what each field means:
1. Name: XX. Usually a good idea on a resume.
2. Gender: Male. Hmm…
3. Age: Twenty something. Hmmmmm…
4. Professional Objective: Analog IC Design. Good to know he’s applying to the right department.
5. Ethnicity: Han. Uh…is this really necessary?
6. Ancestral home: XX. Is there some sort of affirmative action based on ancestral homes?
7. Major: Microelectronics and solid-state circuits. Good info.
8. Highest degree: Master’s. Also good info.
9. Graduation date: XX. Good for figuring out how old you are.
10. Graduating school: XX University. Not that I know which universities are good in China, but valid info nonetheless.
11. Work experience: XX. Excellent.

In the West, if you were to ask candidates to provide gender, age, ethnicity, and ancestral home before an interview, you may very well be looking at a lawsuit. But it seems par for the course here, as is providing a picture and one’s marital status in the resume. So it’s stuff like this that’s, well, different.

But the facepalm moment came after we interviewed a candidate last Friday. One of my local direct reports asked me whether I was considering hiring only men, or will women also be considered. He then goes on to relate examples on some very intelligent female engineers that he knows of in our field, in an attempt to convince me that hiring women should be OK as well.

Gosh, since we’re so far removed from being politically correct over here, I wonder if I should have joined the party and deadpanned that it’s OK to hire women, but only if they’re unmarried, come dressed in mini-skirts, and aren’t over 30. But then again, he might actually think I’m serious.

What The Flux is a semi-regular weekendish feature on that follows the follies and jollies of an engineer in industry, yours truly.


A female friend of mine applied for a job in the department for the development of electrical components in a medium sized company here in Germany. After she had gained her bachelors degree among 95% male fellow students she was asked, if she “had problems working with men”. She is still wondering what the point of the question really was.

I have a similar situation. I’m managing a factory of ten employees in a Southern country, and cultural norms are similar for CVs: age, gender, race, proficiency in ethnic languages, ID number, drivers license. For sick or compassionate leave we require a medical note from the doc or death certificate.

At first I was very unnerved at the high amount of personal information, but I’ve learned to just accept the cultural difference and try to use it to inform me of the deeper levels of worker interaction – ethnic group, age, education level.

Now I just need to work on the chauvinistic attitudes..

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