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Sexism - From Denial to Action

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 5

Awareness and action on feminist issues seems to be moving along a continuum that has important implications for interviewers. Recognizable touchstones along this continuum are Denial­Collusion­Awakening­Anger­Action.

Some male interviewers may complacently assume nothing has changed, although recent events suggest that women are making a dramatic shift along the continuum to the Anger and Action stage.

The first major public incident in the chain was Anita Hill's appearance at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings last fall. These hearings pushed many American women past the awakening point of the continuum.

Outrageous behavior at the Navy Tailhook Association meeting in Las Vegas shows Anger and Action, which culminated in a personal meeting between Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin and the President of the United States and the subsequent resignation of the Secretary of the Navy.

In a less publicized incident, Fox Television president Stephen Chao was fired five weeks after he was hired when he brought a male stripper to a management conference. Members of the audience included his boss, Rupert Murdoch, his wife, and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney, chairwoman of the National Endowment of the Humanities.

What does this mean for interviewers? Offensive treatment of women in job interviews, particularly in high visibility settings like on-campus recruiting, may elicit very Angry and direct Action. Women have moved past the Denial and Collusion stages, and may no longer tolerate even subtle sexism in interviews. It is critical that every interviewer understand what it means to treat each person with dignity and respect, and act accordingly.