I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that in my life. You only got that job because you’re a girl. Sometimes it’ll be more subtle — worded in the form of a question, or possibly directed at another woman — but the implication is the same: that women get jobs easier than men and, therefore, women are less qualified on average than their male counterparts.

I’ve heard this ever since I was a freshman in college, and got my first job at Microsoft. I’m reminded of this by a blog entry by Tess Rinearson who, coincidentally, got her first job at Microsoft at the same age. And she 110% deserves it. 

So why are people telling someone who did a bunch of coding in high school (at, by the way, the best high school in Seattle), received 5s on the AP CS exam, attended UPenn and now CMU, is presenting at Grace Hopper this year, and had three previous internships — one of which was at Valve, a very well-known gaming company — that it was the fact that she was female that got her the job? It doesn’t even make sense.

And it’s also not true. Being female does not help you get a job. 

Sure, there is “encouragement” to hire women. Given an equally qualified man and woman, many people would hire the woman (or so they say). So this must mean that women have it easier, right?

Wrong. That logic is about as valid as saying that handicapped people have an easier time driving because they get better parking spots. Uh, what about everything else?

People perceive women who are, in fact, equally qualified as being less competent and less hireable, and will offer lower salaries to these women. And it’s not even a tiny difference. The below graph shows how academic scientists (hey, shouldn’t they be more “liberated”?) rated resumes for a lab manager position. The resumes were identical, but sometimes a male name was attached and sometimes a female name was. Yet the woman were strangely less desirable hires.

This is not an isolated issue; equivalent results have been seen with race. One study showed that equivalent resumes with black-sounding names were 50% less likely to get a callback than those with white-sounding names. The same factors should be in play here: the conscious thought of “we’d like more diversity” offset against the subconscious bias of Group X being less qualified. The latter one, the *ist thought, wins out, apparently.

And I haven’t even started touching on all the cumulative effects of being in a minority group. The effect of having to be better than your male colleagues in order to obtain the same role, not just for this job, but for every job you’ve ever gotten. All the subtle little disparaging comments you get that insult you. The smaller network you might have, when you don’t quite blend in. The exhaustion of having to work extra-hard to prove yourself. The psychological effect (that is very, very real) of almost no one in your field be “like you” (see: stereotype threat).

So for Tess, and all the woman out there: You earned it. Every single one of your accomplishments. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Gayle Laakmann McDowell is the founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview, Cracking the PM Interview, and The Google Resume. Gayle has worked as a software engineer for Microsoft, Apple and Google. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Computer Science, and an MBA from the Wharton School. She currently resides in Palo Alto, CA.

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