The Girl In the Pressbox: Interviews and overcompensating

I was always told that being a woman in a field ruled by men would play in my favor. I was told that companies in the sports industry would look favorably upon my application in an attempt to look more diversified and accepting. I never really wanted that in the first place. I thought the playing field should be equal. There’s one thing that no one did tell me though.

It’s not always equal. And it’s certainly not always fair.

Sometimes it is fair, so this doesn’t apply to the places that are. Some are blind to the gender difference, but there are those who still aren’t. They see me and I’m a liability. They see me and they think that I don’t know what I’m talking about. And sometimes, when people start doubting you, it’s only natural to start doubting yourself. Do you really know all those things you know? As soon as you’re questioned about your knowledge, you start figuring that everyone knows it better anyway, so maybe you don’t really know as much as you thought you did.

I guess that really could go for anyone. Having your qualifications and skills doubted at every turn is going to leave a scar. But then, having one of the most rudimentary facets of your identity questioned, that’s going to leave a lot more than a scar. That’s going to leave an open wound that will fester for some time.

These ill feelings have been brought on by a recent interview for a job in sports. In one of the first questions of the interview, I was asked was about the gender difference and what I thought of it. My interviewer did all but ask if I really thought I could do it.

At first, I understood it. It seemed like a fair enough question. I did my best to give an eloquent response. I explained that I go about my work professionally and that’s something I learned from my favorite female sports broadcaster, Katie Witham, who I had had the chance to interview on a few occasions.

That wasn’t a good enough answer for my interviewer. Being professional about my work and doing what I had to do and ignoring the fact that there even is a difference was not satisfactory because according to him, the men were more crass on that level.

Sure, I could see it. But why did that have to change my answer?

Anyway, I wasn’t given much of a chance to adapt to his addition to my answer before he moved on to something else.

In short, I didn’t get the job. Approximately one question was based on my qualifications. The rest were a series of impossible questions. Since, I have learned that a woman did get hired on, so I think that is worth noting. I just wish I knew how she answered the question.

The more I reflected on the interview and considered how I could have done a better job; I realized that I couldn’t have because it was all based on the fact that I was a woman. My gender defined my capabilities and there was no coming back from that question and being subsequently shot down.

Initially, I believed the question to be normal and possibly even essential. It wasn’t until I mentioned it to others that I realized that it wasn’t fair to be subjected to that question. The more I reflected, the more uncomfortable it made me. I came to realize that it was actually unfair more than anything. And if I could go back and respond to that question, I’d say something along the lines of:

Obviously, going into this, I knew there would be a gender difference. I wasn’t disillusioned and under the idea that this team was full of women. I knew the position I was applying for, so obviously I know I can do it. I wouldn’t apply for something I was uncomfortable with.

What are my thoughts on the gender difference? Well, sir, I don’t understand how that’s a concern here. Are you asking about how sports are for some reason considered a new frontier for women? Are you asking my thoughts on the matter? Because clearly, I think that women belong in sports. Why would I say anything different? Are you worried that I’m some delicate flower that can’t handle being around men? Do you think that I’m from an all-girls school and never been around men before? Really, what was your concern? Was it really that you didn’t think that I knew enough about sports? Because if that was it, that’s a low blow.

In the interview, I should’ve asked for clarification on that point. What thoughts exactly was he looking for?

To address the above potential concerns, here’s my response:

I fully believe that I am capable of dealing with men. I wouldn’t apply for a position dealing with men, if I didn’t think I could. This also makes me consider, if it wasn’t sports, but was still a company with men in charge, would it be questioned whether I believed that I could work with them? I understand that there are differences there, but the same basic principles apply. Also, taking a look at my resume would show that I’ve covered baseball in the past, and therefore, have dealt with men. Further, obviously I’ve done it before and am often around men in the workplace, when considering that there have been times when I’ve been the only woman on the sports staff for Speakeasy.

So really, what was he trying to accomplish from the question? I can’t understand. I had to justify myself and why I was there more than any of the men did. I can’t understand why that was important.

Though I’m only taking one interview here, the same general principle applies. He might not have been out of order in asking that question. I’m sure he’s not the only one and I’m sure it’s a question I will be subjected to many times in the future. This is just one example.

I just want to get past this. I want to get to a point when we don’t have to question these things because women know what they’re applying for and you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman that while applying for a job who will admit that she can’t do it. It’s just not going to happen.

So in the meantime, we feel we must overcompensate. We must prove to our male interviewers that we know our stuff more than our male counterparts have to. We must get to a point when I’m being faced with more questions than a man in an interview for the very same job.

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