The Norwegian Gender Equality Act, now known as the Gender Equality and Discrimination act as of January 1st 2018, recently celebrated its 40th year of existence. Even though gender equality has been a part of Norwegian legislation for decades, the topic is still relevant as ever. Celine Marie Moe, recently hired Brand Manager in the start-up Choose, was contacted by Norway`s biggest recruitment agency, Manpower, earlier this year. In a recent article in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv she tells about the job interview that took her decades back in time.
In the technical part of the job interview, Moe tells that she had no doubt that her technical competency matched the criteria of the position as a market- and communications leader for a big Norwegian company. The second part of the interview, she says, turned the conversation into something that reminded her more of a Tinder-date than a mapping of skills and qualifications for a leader position.
“What is your family situation?”
Partner and child.
“Do you have kids?!”
“How many children do you have?”
“How old is the child?”
“Ok… But there isn`t any pick up and drop off in kindergarten, is there?”
Yes, children need to be picked up and dropped off in kindergarten.
“Do you need special adaption?”
What do you mean?
“I understand that kindergartens open after and close before the office hours?”
She answered that in this digital day and age an employee can work anywhere at any time if they have internet access, and that she had never had a problem performing well at work even though she`s had to drop off and pick up in kindergarten a couple days a week.
When the recruitment advisor called her a week later asking when she would be available for a second interview, she asked how many people were still being considered. They informed her that several candidates had withdrawn their candidature. That included her. The attitude shown by Norway’s biggest recruitment agency had made her lose interest in working for their client.
Aiming at uncovering the reasons why there are so few top executives in Norway, The Norwegian Statistical Agency (SSB) conducted a leadership survey in 2015. The study highlighted few female applicants and a large degree of recruiting taking place through informal networks led by men as two main reasons. Earlier this year, the Norwegian Minister of Children and Equality, Linda Hofstad Helleland, called for more male leaders cheering on women and challenged business leaders to come up with concrete actions to recruit more female top executives.
Moe points to the role of the headhunter. She says that by doubting the candidates ability to balance work and family, or signaling an expectation of hiring an au pair to be able to handle a leader position, she believes that the headhunters attitudes makes their client lose in the battle of the qualified candidates and loyal employees.
An internal survey by Hewlett Packard showed that men apply for jobs they`re only 60% qualified for, whereas women apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the qualifications. This points to women to a larger extent needing a leaders encouragement to apply, or need to be in the possession of a good network. What might be the most important is headhunters that vouches for your qualifications and gives you the confidence to participate in demanding recruitment processes.
More often than it should, qualified candidates are met with questions that border on discrimination in recruitment processes. Even though this occurs, the recruitment industry don`t get the attention they deserve in the debate on equality. She says that she suspects some stay quiet in fear of jeopardizing their career when future job possibilities lie in the hands of a few headless headhunters.
In the opposite direction, another Norwegian recruitment agency, Obos, recently advertised their search for a top executive illustrated by a seven-month-pregnant female.
Moe urges Manpower to call for girl power, stressing that the opposite is a stick in the wheel for a more balanced, diverse and equal business world.
Manpower has since contacted Moe regarding her experienced. They explained that they have a high focus on diversity and equality in their recruitment processes. They describe Moe`s experience as serious and promise to clean up in their own recruitment routines to avoid this incident happening to future candidates.