Don’t cry for white men

I apologize to all the white men I know and love, but – sorry, your professional life does not suck just because companies are now trying to hire people who do not look like you

This is Clara Campoamor, who fought for women’s rights in Spain. She was amazing.

A former co-worker, Max, called. He’s starting a new job – the old job at our mutual former employer – Acme – had become unbearable.

Acme was acquired by a German company about three years ago. The Germans put in a new CEO, who came from GE.

This is important – if you know anything about GE, you know it’s a nightmare employer.

New CEO brought in his people from GE and things got worse and worse.

Anyhow. Max’s new VP wanted Max to get rid of at least two of Max’s female direct reports.

Max: He wanted me to fire Maggie.

Me: Why? I’ve worked with her. She’s great!

Max: He says she’s not technical enough.

Me: Doesn’t she have a PhD in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech?

Max: Yes.

Me: And – she’s not a software developer. She’s the product manager.

Max: Yes.

Me: So. He’s just threatened by her?

Max: Yes.

Max found Maggie a new position with a promotion and a raise, but after his VP told him he couldn’t give a good performance evaluation to Olivia – who is also excellent – because VP wanted to get rid of her because she wasn’t a “good fit” for the team, Max started looking for a new job.

Only to discover – through friends who already worked at the places he was applying – that these companies are not hiring white men. They are trying to hire women and people of color.


Mr T has a friend – a white man – who is running for school board.

A Black woman has entered the race.

Mr T: My friend has experience. He’s served in other elected positions. He knows the policy. The woman has never run for office before. He says he’s qualified and she’s not.

Me: Maybe we need to change the definition of what makes someone qualified?


A former co-worker, who is now a VP: Yeah, when I graduated from college, it was tough to find a job. I’m a white man, so…..

Me:

Me:

Me: [Yeah, being a woman has so worked for me professionally.]


What makes someone “qualified” for a job?

I can tell you what I think makes a woman not qualified. This is anecdata, theory only.

Out of a team of ten, with only two women, when my boss was ordered to cut 10% from his budget, I was the one he cut.

My performance evaluation had gone like this:

Boss: You need to quit using big words that make people feel stupid.

Me: What? Can you give me an example? I mean, I use the word I need to express the idea. Who feels stupid when I talk to them?

Boss: I don’t have any examples. But you need to stop.

Later.

Co-worker Bruce: He meant he feels stupid. You make him feel stupid.


Years later, at Acme, an engineering company, before the GE takeover. I was the marketing person for the R&D group.

R&D engineer: You’ve been here three months. What do you think?

Me: I love it! I’m the stupidest person in the group!

Engineer:

Engineer:

Engineer: You – seem bright enough.

A day later, after I have told the story to Bruce.

Bruce: Yeah, he doesn’t know you at all. He thinks you have a self esteem problem. He doesn’t get that you were really saying that at your old job, you worked with really stupid people.

Narrator: She had indeed worked with really stupid people.


You are not intimidating.

They are intimidated.


What makes a person “qualified?”

What makes a white man who has held public office before more qualified than a Black woman to be elected to the school board of a school that has a majority of Black students?

Who makes the rules?

Narrator: That was a joke. Everyone knows who makes the rules.


I was going to do all kinds of research about how even though women and people of color are running for office and winning, they are still the minority.

I was going to give you percents and data and detail.

But then I realized I don’t need to.

Because we all know that despite the AOCs and the Kamalas and the Cory Bookers and the Ilhan Omars, most of the people elected to office are white men.

In some places, it’s even the law. In England, the House of Lords has 92 seats. You get that seat by inheriting a title and property and all kinds of weird primogeniture stuff.

Narrator: Yes she knows this is not about elected officials. It’s about a higher principle.

How many women hold a seat in the House of Lords?

If you said “zero,” you would be correct.

But WHY?

Because a woman cannot inherit all that – stuff. It’s the law.

But I don’t want to be too harsh on my English cousins. Our situation in the US is not much better and we don’t even have laws against women holding the seats.

Narrator: Not to mention the UK has had a female prime minister and currently has a queen.

As in, what percent of the seats in Congress are held by someone who is not a white man?

As in, what percent of CEOs in the US are held by someone who is not a white man? What percent of executive offices in the US are held by someone who is not a white man?


Max found a new job. He’s fine.


I had an phone interview last week for a marketing position in a technical company.

I talked to the hiring manager, who is a man.

I am hoping he thinks I’m qualified. Even though I don’t look like him.

2 thoughts on “Don’t cry for white men

  1. It is heartening to see such a clear articulation of the understanding that “qualified” is a term that requires expansion if we are not seeking to continue making the same mistakes and preserving an unhealthy status quo in perpetuity. (However, re: the House of Lords, “Two events have changed the way Members of the House of Lords are appointed: the 1999 House of Lords Act, which ended hereditary Peers’ right to pass membership down through family, and the introduction of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. There are now a number of routes to becoming a Member of the House of Lords” [https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/about-lords/lords-appointment/], so inheriting a peerage ain’t what it used to be, unless I am mistaken).

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  2. There have been women in the Lords since 1958, which is also when life peers, who don’t pass on their titles, were created. Women currently make up about a quarter of the house, as opposed to a third of the lower house.

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