From banning abortions after 20 weeks to refusing to take women politicians seriously to marginalizing female athletes, there has been no shortage of gender discrimination at work in the news recently. The tale of Kim O’Grady and how he encountered an unbreakable glass ceiling is the most recent addition to this list.
Last week, Mr. O’Grady, an Australian from Perth, published on Tumblr the story of how he discovered the reality of gender discrimination. After four months of searching for a job, he had received nothing but rejections, in spite of a resume that showed plenty of experience in his chosen area.
It finally dawned on him that his name, Kim, could be seen as a woman’s name, so he put “Mr.” in front of it. Bingo! The job offers started pouring in.
His post, entitled “How I Discovered Gender Discrimination,” reminded me of female authors who have used initials and male pen names to cover up their gender, feeling that both publishers and readers are more likely to welcome something written by a man.
To name just a few: P.D. James (Phyllis Dorothy James); George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans); Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte).
And would Joane Rowling have gone over just as well as J.K. Rowling? Her publisher didn’t think so: when the first “Harry Potter” novel was published, he asked her to use initials rather than her first name, because he believed boys would be biased against a book written by a woman. Since she only had one given name, he asked her to make up another initial; she took “K.” from her favorite grandmother, Kathleen.
Kim O’Grady can verify that such gender discrimination is alive and well.
As he tells his story, it was in the late 90s when he decided it was time to look for a new job. He had plenty of experience in various fields and could demonstrate excellence in every sales and profit target he had ever been given. There were lots of opportunities out there, and he was sure he would soon find a job.
Instead, he got rejection after rejection and never had a single interview, even when he started applying for lower-echelon positions. Since his resume was the only thing prospective employers had to go on, he sat down to examine it carefully and figure out what was wrong. Pretty soon, he realized what was holding him back.
My first name is Kim. Technically its gender neutral but my experience showed that most people’s default setting in the absence of any other clues is to assume Kim is a women’s name.
It was like being hit on the head with a big sheet of unbreakable glass ceiling.
If they did read further the next thing they saw (as politeness declared at the time) was a little personal information, and that declared I was married with kids.
I made one change that day. I put Mr in front of my name.
O’Grady got an interview for the next job he applied for, and pretty soon he had landed exactly the position he was looking for.
A few days after first posting his story, O’Grady added this:
The sad reality is this shows we all know how real and invasive sexism is.
People have expressed sadness, disappointment, anger, but no man or woman has expressed disbelief. I have also not seen a single example of anyone declaring that my story is only relevant to my local experience as an Australian.
That could be because in many areas the gender gap is alive and well, and maybe be even growing.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for example, women working full-time earned just 80.9 percent of what men earned per week in 2012, slightly below the 82.2 percent they earned in 2011.
What do you think? How prevalent is gender discrimination today?
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