I was turned down for a job at a tech startup because I’m male

I’m a hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool liberal, especially on social issues.

I support bringing underrepresented women and minorities into STEM fields and promoting equality in education. I want my daughter to feel as comfortable with tech as I do.

I never expected the politics of equality that I believe in to result in me ending up being discriminated against.

But it has now. Here’s how it happened.

What happened

I applied to a tech startup. The hiring manager personally replied (no automated nonsense) and told me he would collect resumes for a time and then begin interviews a week or two later.

It became clear via the grapevine that a large number of people had applied to the position. This startup is well-liked.

The hiring manager lamented publicly about how few applicants were female.

Some time passed.

Eventually I discovered that the position had been filled. The person hired was female.

I was never interviewed. Not even phone screened.

When and why I started to suspect discrimination

Obviously, this alone is not enough to conclude discrimination. And truly, at first, it didn’t even occur to me that discrimination was at play.

I simply assumed she was the better candidate for the job. She must have been some kind of programming rockstar who speaks at conferences with street cred a mile long! I’m far from the best coder out there, after all.

However, when I learned more about the candidate who got the job, I discovered that her background was not particularly impressive. Compared to me, she had less education and her work history was less impressive. Fewer accomplishments at less notable companies.

To be clear, I’m certain she was a great candidate. She passed the interview. That’s all that matters, right?

Well, one thing gives me pause: I and at least one other male candidate that I’m aware of who were clearly superior candidates on paper weren’t interviewed or even phone screened.

We both applied to the position well before interviews began, so we weren’t late to the party.

The only explanation that makes sense is they interviewed the female applicants first and then as soon as one passed the interview, they went with her.

There is some evidence to suggest that’s what they did. The company I applied to endorsed this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYjsDilCM0I

There is a section of the video in which the speaker encourages hiring managers to select specifically for females, to compensate for their underrepresentation in tech.

And the manager who made this hire has been active online talking about how hard he’s working to promote diversity in tech.

That leaves me with the sinking feeling that it didn’t matter how good of a candidate I was.

I wasn’t female. That’s all that mattered to them.


So here’s my plea to the tech world right now. Please don’t overreact to all the media buzz about the lack of diversity in tech.

Don’t discriminate against qualified male candidates just to boost your female numbers.

Do what I do instead.

Teach your daughter to love computers. When she grows up and can program circles around me, I’m sure the market will reward her.

She doesn’t need to skip to the head of the line to succeed.

All she needs is to be taught that she’s just as good at what she does as any man.

Treating her differently in any way simply because she’s not male sends the opposite message.

And it also makes people like me feel discriminated against, ironically all in the name of ending discrimination.

About me

I’ve deliberately anonymized this post.

I anonymized the company because I have no interest in hassling any of the people involved. I have a great deal of respect for them and what they do. I want them to succeed and they don’t need this as a distraction, especially the kind woman who got the job instead of me. None of this is her fault. I don’t want her to feel bad. I want her to kick ass at her new job and never know that I felt this way about the hiring process.

I’ve anonymized myself because I fear the stigma of these thoughts being tied to my identity. I’m a white cisgendered male. People often attack the very notion that people like me can even experience discrimination.

The only people who seem to think that people like me can experience discrimination are those on the regressive right. And the last thing I need right now is to become the poster child for the horrible politics of people like Rush Limbaugh.

Please don’t see me that way.

Instead, please view me as someone who didn’t even get an interview simply for being the wrong gender.

Please join me in opposing discrimination in all forms. Discrimination isn’t just something that happens to certain kinds of people.

Discrimination can happen to anyone. And it hurts everyone.

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