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Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many forms of discrimination you could face when you are looking for work or in the workplace. Whether it’s based on;

  • Gender
  • Appearance
  • Family
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age

Many of these forms of discrimination are illegal in many countries. Hiring Managers/Recruiters who work in Human Resources departments (HR) know how to protect their companies from potential lawsuits, so they won’t be directly discriminatory to your face. However you still might face indirect discrimination.

This blog post is a deep dive into the the subtleties of discrimination so you can be more aware of it during the job hunting process. Topics covered include:

  • Women in Tech
  • Fatness and Bias
  • Mental Health
  • Local Experience

Women in Tech

Women still face discrimination in the tech industry. Trans folk even more so. I read a story about a female to male transition for a tech support worker. When he transitioned he visited an old client to help fix a computer. The client thought it was a new person and complained about how the women who use to help fix their computer didn’t know anything about tech. It was the exact same person.

Here’s another story about how a Husband came to understand the discrimination his Wife and Business Partner faces on a daily basis.

In my early career I avoided using my full name (Samantha Connelly) on my CV because of the gender association. If you look at my old 2014 CV, I have S. Connelly as my name.

Now that I have a reputation in the industry, I can’t hide my gender. I’m a little gender queer in my representation and could easily go by Sam (he/him) but I don’t suffer from gender dysphoria and don’t have a strong desire to change. I will remain female because I’m comfortable in my own skin (CIS). Also men’s fashion isn’t as fun as women’s fashion.

Fatness and Bias

I use to be 127kg (that’s 280 pounds for my US readers and 20 stone for my UK readers). I’m now around 83kg, at 160cm tall this still puts me in the Obese category. I had always grown up being the fat kid. I had weight loss surgery (gastric sleeve) in 2016.

People tend to think fat people are lazy and unmotivated. Back when I was fatter and saw someone else who was even larger, I use to thing, “well at least I’m not that fat”, but I’ve seen my mindset change first hand. I now have the same knee jerk, “ew, gross” reaction as everyone else.

Fatness itself is generally not cause for legal discrimination (unless it’s classified as a disability), however overweight people are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions because they are seen as less competent.

When was the last time you saw a fat leader in a tech company? That weight loss surgery has probably already paid for itself based on my increased in potential earning capacity and more leadership opportunities.

Mental Health

This time last year, I thought I was going to move to Newcastle to join a start up in a head of engineering role. After the offer had been made, someone on the board did “further research” into my history, and getting fired from Campaign Monitor came up.

They thought I had been fired because of my history of mental health impacting my performance. At the time I was recovering from a broken ankle and I had presented to the whole company about my struggles with depression.

However, the reason why I was let go was a mismatch of skills and expectations. It was an experimental Quality Coach role, through hiring me they discovered they actually wanted someone to help grow the test automation framework for the C# backend. This wasn’t my strength and we broke up on good terms.

I even presented at a conference of how I tried a quality coach role and failed at it. I put together this presentation with the help of my old boss from Campaign Monitor. I was super excited for this role back at the end of 2017.

Local Experience

Through my career coaching sessions and leading Sydney Testers over the last 4 years, I’ve spoken to many people who are looking for their first job here in Australia. They often get rejected for not having any “local experience”. I view this as a form of discrimination. It’s an excuse to not consider you as a candidate.

I can’t blame hiring managers for taking this mental shortcut. When you are dealing with 100’s of applicants and you want to get the list down to 4 to interview, you take many shortcuts to get there.

It does mean people often struggle to land that first job here. I’ve told people to invest in their online profile and networking to overcome this barrier.

Summary

I have no idea how other people over come other forms of discrimination (like agism and racism). But this blog is full of stories of things I’ve tried or heard that can help people put their best foot forward during the job hunting process.

If you’re an older disabled fat black mother working in tech good luck out there because society isn’t on your side.

What’s worked for you? Or did something backfire?

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