I am working with a client who specifically needs a female manager.  They have several male managers, just lost the one female on staff and feel that they must have at least one female manager to work with many of their female associates in the event they need to talk about "girl stuff".

To me this is a justified need and not any attempt to discriminate.  However i do not want to put a gender specific requirement in an ad.  Nor do i want to tell male candidates that they can't be considered because i need a female due to the inbalance of all existing managers being male.  I don't think.  Without knowing who is on the receiving end of that communication or in the event i get some nut who does not understand that my client is not discriminating but rather trying not to discriminate because they have all male managers, i think i might run the risk of having to anwer an EEOC complaint.

 

What would you do?  Would you just post the ad and put something like, "Female managers are encouraged to apply". 

Post the ad and make no reference to gender at all then ignore qualified male candidates.

 

Post the ad and try to explain to qualified male candidates that the company is looking for a female because they don't have any and need a lady.

 

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.  This one has me questioning my normal blunt self who would ususally say, "Charlie i need a lady on this one".  They don't have any lady managers at this point and are about to be accused of discrimination."  Then get to hear old Charlie say, "They can't do that and by God i am going to report it."

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I have come across a similar situation with one of my first clients. The twist to this one was that my client didn't care it the employee was male or female, but if it was female, she couldn't be overly attractive. I jokingly called this my "ugly order". Their reasoning was that in this environment there were a lot of men that couldn't handle working with an attractive woman.

Honestly, at the end of the day it is our job to present the "best qualified candidate" and as their representative, only you know what that is. I would not be specific in your job post as you would be inviting problems - and if a candidate who you feel is not suitable questions you to why, tell them just that - you need to send the best qualified candidates based on culture, and skill sets.  I think the subliminal message idea is fantastic... that may just work out nicely for you!

Sandra,

To stay above reproach I would run with the normal Ad Copy with no subtle gender preference--but make a special effort to also post that AD with Professional Women-in-Management organizations, leaders and those officers, in the area.

For example, the Women-2-Women Business  organization alone has 23,063 members on LinkedIN.  And these are: Professionals-CEO's-entrepreneurs-executives-management-women in legal-technology-finance-real estate-marketing-engineers-medical-entertainment-media-design-software. New York-Chicago-Florida-N&S Carolina-Boston-California-Atlanta-Texas-Washington DC-Georgia-Philadelphia-world wide.  (LinkedIN) And there are 3.414 Professional Working Women Groups on LinkedIn.

Depending on the locale and the business or technical discipline you seek I would also search out to female College School Deans and Dept. Heads (if they exist).  All universities have professional/technical sororities that also foster professional growth for their sisters where a good percentage of alumnae will be in management roles already.  The military will be experiencing a percentage of well trained officer ranked females leaving the service during this period of downsizing in the Army in particular. 

Posting a managerial job opening with these entities, who have stated missions to improve and support women professionals, is telling them, without telling them, that you are looking for strong recommendations from their personal networks.

The EEOC will not have a problem with you taking “Affirmative Action” in attempting to assure that an ample number of “protected group” candidates are being attracted and considered by your efforts.  The point being, your advertisements will attract both male and female candidates, but you will be selecting, with a preference, for outstanding female management candidates.  For the record you will select and interview the very best male and female candidates and certainly consider them on their merits for your final decision.

On that note I would also pose specific questions to both male and female candidates to speak to their record in developing and promoting women and minorities, and other protected group members in their employment history.  This orientation and capability seems to be in great need with this particular employer—for women in particular.

I like Caitlin's suggestion, too, but will your ad be multimedia everywhere it appears? Even if not, hopefully it will draw enough of the "right" candidates to satisfy the client. Tough conundrum that calls for some creativity. Gray areas are where we do some of our best thinking and problem-solving.

Hi Sandra,

 

I love the question, and I find it interesting that YOU are seeking wisdom on this, when so many of us respect your guidance on sensitive issues.  Just to chime in (though rather late to the party), my thoughts are these:

I am a very proud male-feminist: yet, I don't believe there is a need to focus on needing female candidates.  Let's keep focused on what the needed job requirements are: someone sensitive to address/handle diversity issues in the work-place, in particular, the unique issues faced by women in the workplace.  Similar to what Raphael suggested, but focus on examples from the candidates experience.  Also, get specifics from the client on what a woman in the role would be expected to do that a man could not.

I think by focusing on what you will need the candidate to "DO", and what the candidates will have to present to you from their experience will enable you to avoid needing to specify the ultimate desire for women candidates.  Frankly, this forces me to ask how you would approach the idea of transgendered candidates in the work place...if recruiting solely based on gender.

My thoughts may seem over simplistic, but I do believe the proper candidates will emerge for you.  I just hate the idea of seeking "women only candidates" or postings that leave the impression of "men need not apply".  Now, if the role involves leading the firm's "women's roundtable discussions--conducted in the ladies' room", then it may seem appropriate to expose that the duties required may imply a woman will be best considered for the job.

 

We actually run into this with my company. We have a department that really needs to be very well rounded and have about 50/50 male/female. When they have a female person leave the role, they want to replace her with a female and visa versa. They interview ALL top candidates, and choose the best person for that role (gender included). They then keep a list of any of the other top performers (both genders included), for their next openings in the role. That way there is no discrimination in the interviewing process. Also, when making the hiring decision, it can be argued that the best candidate was chosen for the opening, but all were given a chance.

@David, your approach makes great sense philosophically but this seems like a real-world example of the concept that was the topic of this recent blog post: http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/a-man-from-cambridge. Sandra's client has it in their mind that they want a certain type of candidate. We have to presume that they have a good basis for this preference and in fact the rationale they have shared with her seems reasonable.

My point is not to dismiss your comments nor to speak for Sandra, but rather to empathize with her situation as she seeks a pragmatic and ethical solution. That said, perhaps a great male candidate will surface who will give her the opening to present him as a dark horse and create a little slack in the gender requirement.


@Christopher, I hear you...and wouldn't disagree.  Give the hiring manager what was requested!  My comments were really directed at the "how" to go about it and stay out of EEOC danger...as was posted. 

Of course, present the client with what was requested.  But in gathering the universe of candidates, we can do that in such a way as to not offend others or walk into legal jeopardy. Once the broader universe of candiates is identified, then I would just cull that down to candidates suitable to the client.

 


 Christopher Perez said:

@David, your approach makes great sense philosophically but this seems like a real-world example of the concept that was the topic of this recent blog post: http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/a-man-from-cambridge. Sandra's client has it in their mind that they want a certain type of candidate. We have to presume that they have a good basis for this preference and in fact the rationale they have shared with her seems reasonable.

My point is not to dismiss your comments nor to speak for Sandra, but rather to empathize with her situation as she seeks a pragmatic and ethical solution. That said, perhaps a great male candidate will surface who will give her the opening to present him as a dark horse and create a little slack in the gender requirement.

Great comments from everybody. My other challenge on this spot is that it is a local position with a no relo. I probably have only run into this issue three times in 30 years. The others I have handled were gender specific due positions for women only fitness centers or female obgyn's for obvious reasons.

@tino you gave me a very good point about affirmative action recruiting what I was looking for and the college connections for women in management groups I had not thought of, good suggestion.

@ David, believe me when I tell you that I brainstorm with other recruiters and HR people all the time to figure out how to handle lots of sensitive issues. This spot will have some of the issues close to what you have mentioned. Leading training groups for women employees in handling sexual harassment. Not held in the ladies room but meetings including women employees only. Not that a guy couldn't handle it well but female employees made it clear that they were not comfortable asking some questions or relating situations to male managers. There also seems to have been complaints that female employees were not represented equally in the management meetings because all of the managers were male.

Real or not, this client is sensitive to their female employees perceptions. In all of their other locations the mix of male,female,minority managers is very balanced so the focus is on bringing this location into balance. As to transgender if they are on the female side of the transition I would be thrilled to death.

My normal process is what everyone is suggesting, send qualified period. I think what I am struggling with is that I would like to be able to explain to male candidates what the situation really is and why so they are not put in a situation where they are either submitted or interviewed with hopes of being hired when it is what I feel is a valid need for a female and 99% certaintity that a qualified female will be hired.

So here is a question for the fellows. If you applied for this job and I explained what was going on would you understand or would you be ready to go to war?
@betsey, don't you just love it when they specify unattractive. I have had that one and my response was, "do I have a candidate for you". There was a period of about a month that I thought I might have to change my niche to a specialization in fat and ugly of both genders. I finally asked the troops if they were doing all their recruiting at fast food joints and only picking the folks who made four trips through the line. I place a lot of people who will never be models but are well groomed, bright and know their stuff but this run was a shock.

Sandra,

If you put it out there as to what your specific recruiting agenda is--you will get challenged by those who do not fit your agenda.  You won't win that argument nor should you feel guilty about not putting it on the table.

You owe no candidate an explanation other than you're looking for the best available talent to recommend for consideration for the job in question.  In your position here I would recommend both top male and female candidates...not to CYA but to be on record that that's your modus operandi.  Whomever the hiring manager interviews and selects is on them...you did your job in giving outstanding candidates to choose from

Sandra McCartt said:

Great comments from everybody. My other challenge on this spot is that it is a local position with a no relo. I probably have only run into this issue three times in 30 years. The others I have handled were gender specific due positions for women only fitness centers or female obgyn's for obvious reasons.

@tino you gave me a very good point about affirmative action recruiting what I was looking for and the college connections for women in management groups I had not thought of, good suggestion.

@ David, believe me when I tell you that I brainstorm with other recruiters and HR people all the time to figure out how to handle lots of sensitive issues. This spot will have some of the issues close to what you have mentioned. Leading training groups for women employees in handling sexual harassment. Not held in the ladies room but meetings including women employees only. Not that a guy couldn't handle it well but female employees made it clear that they were not comfortable asking some questions or relating situations to male managers. There also seems to have been complaints that female employees were not represented equally in the management meetings because all of the managers were male.

Real or not, this client is sensitive to their female employees perceptions. In all of their other locations the mix of male,female,minority managers is very balanced so the focus is on bringing this location into balance. As to transgender if they are on the female side of the transition I would be thrilled to death.

My normal process is what everyone is suggesting, send qualified period. I think what I am struggling with is that I would like to be able to explain to male candidates what the situation really is and why so they are not put in a situation where they are either submitted or interviewed with hopes of being hired when it is what I feel is a valid need for a female and 99% certaintity that a qualified female will be hired.

So here is a question for the fellows. If you applied for this job and I explained what was going on would you understand or would you be ready to go to war?

Sandra, as a candidate I would be ready to go to war ONLY if I felt strongly enough that I had done ALL of the requirements of the position in the past and could prove I could do it again. More importantly, I fully respect the company making the effort to bring this one office location into balance, and if presented that way there would be no war cry from me.

The converse of this dilemma is also be a tough stance to justify: what if a client only sought male candidates--what would/should be said to qualified women? And how would that twist inform your decision on how to recruit? 

 

 

"So here is a question for the fellows. If you applied for this job and I explained what was going on would you understand or would you be ready to go to war?"

To put the explanation out there is to invite mayhem, IMO-- no matter how noble the desire for transparency. Not to mention the potential liability for the client, but you already knew that (no good deed goes unpunished, etc.). I tried to role-play how that conversation would go in my mind and my throat seized up reflexively.

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