The Neanderthal of Zurich

6 12 2010

A friend of mine is on the prowl for a new job. She is a little younger than me, childless, strong-minded and very well-educated. Her degrees are from ivy league schools and she has spent most of the last 15 years working her way through the corporate landscape on both sides of the Atlantic.

She had a job interview two weeks ago. The company is a service provider in an industry she knows a great deal about, and in which she has a very strong interest. She went into the interview from a position of strength – she is not wildly desperate to leave her current employer, but is kind of itching for a new challenge. The job ad she answered sounded like the perfect fit.

She tells me the interview went great till close to the end. The two (male) interviewers, the head of the Human Resources department and the head of the department in which she hoped to work, told her that the person who did the job previously had to leave the company because of illness. (“Not due to overwork, hahaha,” said the HR manager.) The other guy added, “Yes we haven’t had a lot of luck with incumbents in this job. They tend to leave after three years. And it really would be nice to have some continuity here. We had a lot of problems with pregnancies… and, well then there was that one adoption, but mainly we’ve had issues with pregnancies.”

Over in the corner, the HR dude squirmed uncomfortably.

My friend did what every late-thirties, job-seeking career woman with a brain and a pulse would do. She did not skip a beat and just continued to smile her sweet, insincere corporate smile, perfected by enduring years of bullying in the corporate trenches.Later she told me that she was so stunned at the words that had just come out of the Neanderthal’s mouth she couldn’t even formulate a sentence even if she had wanted to. She wondered if she really just heard what she just heard and it took all her willpower not to reach across the table and strangle the guy.

Though I’ve made it clear in earlier blog entries that I was not born to be a mother, I will violently and loudly defend every woman’s right to decide what she wants to do with her own body and her future – even if I don’t agree – and not be penalized for it. I think that is a basic human right (last time I looked it was, anyway).

So it never ceases to amaze me that in an allegedly advanced, intellectual, highly industrialized country in the middle of Western Europe, which, lest we forget, currently has a female president, two women leading the two houses of parliament and a female majority in its cabinet, such clearly discriminatory and misogynist attitudes seem common among men in positions of power. The fact that this person would even think something like that makes me furious, the fact that he said it to the face of a female candidate and potential subordinate is more than stupid.

They didn’t invite my friend to a second round of interviews. And she is curious to know if that was because she is a woman of child-bearing age, wielding a lethal weapon called a womb, or if she was just plain old overqualified. After all, men really hate being outshone or beat at their own game.

In my lifetime, please.

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2 responses

7 12 2010
Ironic Mom

The glass ceiling just got that much thicker. A timely post – on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre – 21 years ago this day, an angry misogynist targeted and killed 14 young women in the Faculty of Engineering.

So far to go.

7 12 2010
Evelynn Starr

Yep, I remember the Montreal Massacre well. We were all young and innocent and believed we would change all that, including those attitudes. See how far we’ve come in 21 years? Obviously not far enough.

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