Open thread: Tell us about a women-in-computing recruiting gaffe!

So, this older maternity leave graphic from Thinkprogress has been making the rounds on Twitter…

Graphic shows a ring with the weeks of paid maternity leave for various countries, highlighting the fact that the United States lags behind at 0 weeks.   Full description of the numbers here:

Graphic shows a ring with the weeks of paid maternity leave for various countries, highlighting the fact that the United States lags behind at 0 weeks. Full description of the numbers here:

And it reminded me of a story…

Many years ago, I won an women in computing scholarship that helped support my PhD research. It was from a large US-based company who puts a lot of work into supporting women in computing, and I owe them great thanks, but I won’t name them because this story is a bit embarrassing to them. Even a group doing their best by women in computing can make a funny mis-step!

The setting: Their team had organized a scholars retreat at their office in a major US city, including a series of interesting talks from women at the company, including both technical and more social talks. It was an amazing trip, except for one moment: One of the ladies speaking to us started extolling the virtues of their generous 6-week maternity leave policy. At least, as you can see from the graphic above, it’s generous by US standards…

But we were a group of young women from Canada. The scholarship winners started looking at each other. Should we say something? Finally, one of the students put up her hand: “You should probably know that Canada has a 50 week maternity leave policy…”

What followed was a highly amusing few minutes where a whole lot of women at this tech company learned a fascinating new thing about parenting in Canada. And an adorably awkward recovery of “well, I guess maybe those of you planning to have kids soon will be excited to know about our new Canadian office!”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard stuff like this at recruiting events, so tell me: what amusing (or not so amusing!) gaffes have you heard from companies eager to recruit more women?

And, as the subject says, this is an open thread, so feel free to add comments on any subject at all, including past posts, things we haven’t posted on, what you’ve been thinking or doing, etc as long as they follow our comment policy.

8 thoughts on “Open thread: Tell us about a women-in-computing recruiting gaffe!

  1. Tim Chevalier

    I asked a recruiter for a startup what their percentage of women engineers once, and got the response, “We just hired our first female last week.”

    1. terriko Post author

      Not a recruiting thing, but I did get hired on one job where after I had been there a few weeks and was comfy with the team, they told me that they’d been threatened with sensitivity training because I’d been hired (not because of anything they or I had done). Way to make my first few weeks strangely awkward, HR.

      1. Tim Chevalier

        Wow, that is so inappropriate of them to tell you that.

        Also, it says everything about your company’s culture that having to go to training to find out how to make your co-workers feel more safe and comfortable was considered a threat.

  2. Ann

    I applied for a job where at the interview, the leader of the team explained to me (F) that they didn’t really “do girly culture”. Sexism noted. I took the job anyway because I thought that if I waited for a non-sexist software development work environment I would be waiting a long time, and the work seemed interesting. It was. Unfortunately, before I could even stay there sufficiently many months to make it not suspiciously soon to leave, I had to put up with hostilities from two different developers so severe that I nearly left anyway.

  3. Eule

    At the moment I am not so sure if the paid maternity leave that we have in Germany isn’t actually one of the reasons why women don’t get hired into leadership positions. We have a gender pay gap that just doesn’t get smaller and has been around 22% for years. I am glad it exists, but I am not sure if it should be quite so long.

    1. Eule

      Sorry, I am NOT glad the gender pay gap exists. I meant the maternity leave but was a little hasty.

      1. Mike

        Given that the US seems to have trouble too, it doesn’t seem clear that the issue with the promotion of women into senior leadership in Germany is 14 weeks of mat leave.

  4. Robert

    The Canadian leave is actually Parental Leave — it can be taken by either parent. And according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour website (updated Feb 20, 2015) the entitlement is 37 weeks in Ontario. (Women can get up to 17 weeks Pregnancy Leave, but taking any of that reduces the Parental Leave to 35 weeks.)

    Other provinces would have different laws, but I suspect they are broadly similar. Not certain where the original source got the “50 weeks” number from.

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