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Google Values Confident Women -- Too Bad Most Companies Don't

If you want to succeed at Google, it pays to be confident — at least if you’re a woman. A fascinating recent New York Magazine piece discusses an interview that Google’s head of “people operations” (what tech companies call HR to make it sound cool) Laszlo Block gave on a podcast in which he talks about asking interviewees to rank their engineering skills on a scale of 1 to 5. For female candidates, the self-assessed score that was most predictive of their success at the company was a 5/5. As NY Mag quotes Block as saying:

“If you’re a woman, however, the score that was most predictive was a five out of five. And our hypothesis there was because there is so much societal pressure on women to be self-effacing and humble and hang back and be modest, and wait till they’re certain rather than raising their hand at the first opportunity like men, on average, do — that if a woman says she’s a five, first of all, she’s probably going to have higher EQ and social perceptiveness on average. And second — she’s gonna be amazing! And, indeed, that’s what we see.”


It’s intriguing to parse the multiple layers of intent Google’s hiring managers are trying to measure here. At a superficial level, it seems as if they are looking for someone who recognizes that she has strong engineering skills. Yet someone may indeed be an excellent engineer, but assess herself as less than a five for myriad reasons (impostor syndrome, trying not to appear arrogant, a genuine lack of knowledge as to how her skills stack up) and all who call themselves fives may not actually have outstanding engineering skills. Pure engineering know-how, however, isn’t what Google cares about.

What the question is truly designed to find out is who has done their homework about how women present themselves in interview scenarios, about how women who come across as too assertive are penalized and about what qualities Google values in hires. The 5/5 candidate’s answer shows that she has opted to take a calculated risk in signalling her awareness of these factors (and disregard for the first two) by choosing the most self-aggrandizing answer available to her. Her engineering skills may or may not be a 5/5, but her judgment, ability to read this particular room and EQ, as Block suggests, certainly are.


Unfortunately, most employers aren’t looking for the same answer that Google is. In fact, for a female interviewee to rank herself as an exceptional hire outside the context of an interview at a tech giant is more likely to harm her chances of receiving a job offer rather than increase them. Displays of female confidence are often punished. As Claire Shipman and Katty Kay wrote in a 2014 piece for The Atlantic about their book,The Confidence Code: The Science And Art Of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know:

“Attitudes toward women are changing, and for the better, but a host of troubling research shows that they can still pay a heavier social and even professional penalty than men do for acting in a way that’s seen as aggressive. If a woman walks into her boss’s office with unsolicited opinions, speaks up first at meetings, or gives business advice above her pay grade, she risks being disliked or even—let’s be blunt—being labeled a bitch.”

University College London professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic puts it even more bluntly in an interview with the Harvard Business Review:

“… when men come across the confident or even arrogant, we assume that they are good at what they do and we call them charismatic. And when women behave in the same way, we tend to see them as psychopathic or a threat to society or an organization. So society punishes manifestations of confidence in women, and rewards them in men– which only reinforces this natural differences between the genders.”

Even being interviewed by someone who claims to see men and women as equals in the workplace is no guarantee of a bias-free experience.

The exception to this rule seems to be assertiveness that’s communicated non-verbally, such as authoritative gestures or getting up in another’s personal space, according to new research from Emory University. As researcher Dr. Melissa J. Williams writes inThe Wall Street Journal:

“We found that women weren’t penalized for assertiveness that was expressed through nonverbal means—such as through expansive bodily stances or physical proximity. Likewise, they weren’t penalized for using paraverbal cues, such as speaking loudly or interrupting.”

Perhaps expressing your confidence via interpretive dance or a small pencil sketch is the way to avoid being penalized for being self-assured about your on-the-job value?

Of course, we shouldn’t get too carried away in offering Google our plaudits for their hiring approach. The tech giant might favor confident women, but that doesn’t mean they’re hiring scores of them. In fact, only a little more than a quarter of Google’s workforce are women and that number drops to 16% if you look at senior managers. Certainly, not a 5/5 there.


source : http://www.forbes.com/​

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