A man named Kim O’Grady says that letting employers know he was a male by using the honorific “Mr.” allowed him to get a job after four months of rejections by employers who believed he was a woman.
Kim O’Grady, a management consultant in Perth, Australia, wrote about his experience in a Tumblr blog post that has gone viral, catalyzing workplace equality advocates across the world. His original blog has already been re-published online by Atlantic Media, Quartz, and AOL.
In an epilogue about his original blog post, “How I Discovered Gender Discrimination,” O’Grady wrote on Sunday, “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,” he wrote on Sunday. “I have also not seen a single example of anyone declaring that my story is only relevant to my local experience as an Australian. It’s been shared widely throughout the USA, Canada and the UK, and I have even seen a few links from outside the anglosphere. Yet everywhere it is greeted with knowing assent.”
In his original blog post published last week, O’Grady describes how he was looking for a job in the late 1990s. With years of experience in engineering, sales and other fields, O’Grady said there were “plenty of opportunities around.”
“I was an experienced guy in an experienced guy’s world, this wouldn’t be hard,” he wrote.
After four months of rejections, O’Grady decided to search for clues among his applications.
“I was particularly pleased with the decision I made to brand it with my name with just enough bold positioning to make it instantly recognisable (sic), and as I sat scouring every detail of that CV (resume) a horrible truth slowly dawned on me. My name,” O’Grady wrote.
“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,” he wrote. “And nothing else on my CV identified me as male. At first I thought I was being a little paranoid but engineering, trades, sales and management were all definitely male dominated industries. So I pictured all the managers I had over the years and, forming an amalgam of them in my mind, I read through the document as I imagined they would have. It was like being hit on the head with a big sheet of unbreakable glass ceiling.”
In the U.S., sex discrimination was the third most frequently filed charge by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 2012 fiscal year with 30,356 charges, or about 30 percent of all charges.
Sex discrimination can affect men too. Nearly 18 percent of sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC in the 2012 fiscal year were filed by males.
Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, and author of the recently published book, Babygate: What You Really Need to Know About Pregnancy and Parenting in the American Workplace, said even though O’Grady’s experience took place in the late 1990s, gender discrimination, motherhood bias in particular, “is still alive and well in 2013.”
“Mothers are routinely denied hiring opportunities, passed over for promotion, and paid less than their childless counterparts, which is a grave threat to family economic security,” she said. “Women need to arm themselves with information about their legal rights and policymakers and employers should act to ensure we have laws and policies that promote equal opportunities for women and mothers.”