Hello, Sir: Gender Bias

It happens too often. I’ll walk into a restroom and hear a shout from someone behind me saying “wrong bathroom.” It nags at me for a few reasons. Wondering, self-consciously, if I look like a man but also about the state of people. Their inability to pay attention and gather all the facts before making a split-second gender judgement without thinking about the social and personal consequences. There have been only two times I’ve stood up for myself in this situation besides a simple correction of, “no – I’m a m’am.”

The first was in a bathroom in Boston. I was having a few drinks before a concert with friends and as I walked into the restroom, a very drunk girl stopped me. “Wrong bathroom buddy,” she slurred. With my liquid courage, I quickly responded: “I’m a girl, not a boy and it’s really none of your business what bathroom I decide to use.” She quickly scurried away like a rat in the subway, scared of what – I’m not sure.

The second time was also in Boston, funny enough. I was at a Chipotle in Kendall Square and as I walked in, the person behind the counter said “hello sir.” I ignored the gender pronoun as I do in most situations and began to order my food. The girl quickly noticed I was not a man and apologized. Then she asked, “does it offend you when people call you a man?”

A bold question from a person who should be taking responsibility for her actions. At that moment, I quickly decided this wasn’t my fault. “Why should I be offended?”, I said “I’m not offended as much as I’m sad for people and the state of our generation that we don’t take time to notice people. That we don’t give them more than a moment before we decide who they are or what they are. That you don’t take the time to notice other people beyond a hair cut before you decide their gender.” She was stunned and didn’t say much after that, as you’d probably assume.

Last week, I went to New York City and a guy called me sir. I didn’t say anything but as I retold the story to my friends who live in New York over coffee, each of them were completely mortified that this happened. They kept saying “this doesn’t happen in New York.”

But the thing is, bias happens everywhere. So yes, it does happen in New York.  Perhaps people are a little more embarrassed when it happens in New York but they are not exempt from having completely biased conversations about gender.

The unfortunate situation at hand is in our history, even as we pursue a different future. We – the media, parents, society, etc –  have spent years trying to classify what a man is and what a woman is. The media uses that to define characters behaviors, not just pick a character to play them. How many times do you see insecure men on TV? How many times do you see dominant women? Think about it…

Gender is not blind and therefore when people walk a gender line, people insist on finding a way to pick one. They want to know what you are and who you are and they can’t just let you be – even when you pee. They can’t trust that other people will make the right decision about their gender. It’s just part of what makes the conversation about trans people and their rights so complicated for people; the average person doesn’t recognize or respect gender as binary in any way, even as a transitionary state.

The hardest part for me still resonates back to the conversation I had in the Chipotle in Boston: people don’t notice each other. It’s a fact that one person can look at another person and make a decision without taking in even two seconds worth of visual queues and information.

notice me gender


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Plane Thoughts: “Like” no.

I spend more time on planes than most. Thanks to family across the country and a job that forces me to leave the safety of my sweatpants occasionally to act like a real adult, I’ve easily spent over 20 hours on a plane this month with a few more flights this week. While I board every plane with a list of work, my focus isn’t always there.

With no reliable internet and no attention span, that means I spend my time listening to (overhearing, really) a lot of weird shit. Annoying shit.

I can’t just keep all of this annoying shit in my head, so I open a word doc and I write. Usually, I just dump these but I figured, why not post it.

So here it is, my latest plane rant:

In high school, I used to count words. In presentations, in speeches, even in conversation. Not just any words, words that annoyed me or caught my attention simply because they were used so many times. You know the words – like, um, so. They’re words people use to fill in space, to give their brain time to catch up with the thought. I count because, frankly, it drives me nuts and it’s the best way I know to distract my own brain from mounting frustration at the sheer volume of these key phrases.

I read a book where the author was coaching politicians for debates – teaching them to avoid these phrases because it gave people the impression the politician was stalling, untrustworthy and ill-prepared.

So why is it that the movie Clueless’ vernacular has crept its way into so many people’s vocabularies today? How is it that it went from cool to a sign of stupidity? Think about it. How often do you hear the word “like” randomly interjected into the sentences of the people around you? In no situation is it actually contextually relevant unless someone is using a simile to describe a situation. However, if someone is using like frequently enough to start my head count – it’s highly unlikely they even know what a simile is off the top of their head…

clueless vocabulary

Pulse: Not Just A Gay Bar In Orlando

I remember the first time I ever walked into a gay bar. I was in my 20’s and I was completely panicked. I didn’t know what to expect. Who I would see. What I might feel that could possible be more strange than this constant feeling of questioning.

From the outside, you may have never noticed this place. It was in a strip mall on the corner of town. No rainbows, no markings to tell you that you were, in fact, at a gay bar – the name “gay bar” itself still registering as a bit of a shock factor at the time. The door covered in black left so much to the imagination as I looked at the clientele quietly wandering toward the door, separately – even though I had seen them arrive in the car together. I sat in my car, sweating. “What does this mean” I thought, as I summoned enough courage to open my door and fumble through my wallet for my ID.

As I opened the door, the thump of the bass felt familiar. The smells, too. I was in college after all. Bars were very familiar to me. This bar was smoky and dark, with the only light coming from the bathrooms to my right. There was an additional layer of familiarity somehow. It felt like everyone knew everyone else, except for me – this new kid wandering into the unknown.

While the sounds were the same, I looked around at this whole new world with shock and awe. It wasn’t a bunch of drunk girls dancing in groups of 10, taking over the dance floor. There was laughter. Bright colors and smiles from people as young as 20 up to 60 wandering around the tight room, about the size of a restaurant in an airport. Tables hosted couples, gay couples – some of the first I had ever seen in real life. They sat close together and I noticed a certain intimacy. I could tell they did not take these moments for granted, knowing that they rarely enjoyed that kind of proximity in a public place. Even holding hands in the parking lot was forbidden for fear of being outed.

For a moment, I felt safe. I felt my own anxieties relax as I realized that I was around people who wouldn’t judge these feelings swirling around in my head. There’s something about being around people who you feel safe with and the first time you really feel it, you’ll never forget it. That’s a feeling that’s hard to explain to someone who is not gay. It’s something the average person doesn’t “get” about gay bars. They’re a safe haven, like some people think of their home, church or a particular club they belong to. They’re a place where people in the LGBT community and our allies can be who they want without the glares and stares that are too common in the outside world.

Only in the context of my own secrets could I really understand what this safety meant. Having experienced the feeling of wondering if someone would accept me because of who I love. Asking my own mother, with tears in my eyes as I could barely breathe, if she could love me any way. My secret was safe in this crowded, dark bar and I would find myself seeking out that safe haven many times as I’ve gotten older – trying to find my place in a community, my safety in the crowd of people just like me.

That safe haven is temporarily displaced. The recent shooting in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 50, has made a mark on our community – regardless of motivation from terrorism or hate. These are our sisters and brothers, the people we make eye contact with across a crowded room to nod and smile – a quiet acceptance of who they are and their life. An acceptance that’s powerful. An acknowledgement that is rare in a world where we’ve fought for equality for so long.

It’s an attack in our home. A disruption to our safety. This tragedy resonates deeply with me. I think of all the nights I’ve spent in a crowded gay bar across this country. The joy. The safe harbor, or so I thought.

I think about the rippling effect of each of these lives. If you really want to talk about viral, think about the resonating impact of these lives. These 99 lives were attached to at least two parents each. Some with children, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles… Thousands of lives directly impacted by this violence. Each of their faces momentarily featured on a news cast. Their story barely told.

Last night, as I was preparing for the week I went online to look for a BBQ chicken recipe. I feel guilty. That I’m living my life normally when such a tragedy just occurred. That I’m not doing more. I know we’re all wondering what to do.

It’s time to love. It’s time to love past the assumptions of communities and the hate that’s too readily available. To give acceptance readily and openly. To teach our kids to love people despite their differences and teach them that everyone is equally deserving of our love and respect.

I wish we didn’t have to be brave, but we have to do that too.


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Mobile Recruiting And Candidate Experience

If there’s one thing I really, truly hate about using my smart phone, it’s when I go to look up some basic bit of information (should be easy enough), and get stuck playing a little game that I call “the mobile hokey pokey.” I’m pretty sure you’ve played it before; if you own a cell phone, then this should sound pretty familiar.

Here’s how this game goes (although since there seem to be no real rules, this might in fact be a misnomer).

You put your address in, you pull a shit site out, you squeeze and pinch the screen, and turn it all about. With the mobile hokey pokey, you want to scream and shout…this ain’t what it’s all about.

Remember to tip your waiters for that one. But seriously.

People use mobile for convenience, but for some reason, even in 2015, it’s often still a big pain in the ass, particularly since a surprising amount of sites seem to think “responsive design” means creating such a poor user experience that you can’t help but respond by being pretty pissed off and frustrated. These sites are about as anachronistic as that Hokey Pokey reference (you’re welcome).
But the thing is, I don’t have to do that dance; in fact, I steadfastly refuse to zoom in, then out, then have to quit and start over because my Google app directs me to some page that would take a 60 inch monitor to properly render. Rumors of “mobilegeddon,” turns out, were greatly exaggerated; I still waste a ton of time on sites that aren’t optimized for mobile, even after the April Google update to favor these sites in search results.

Mama ain’t got no time for that, y’all.

Seriously. Why do websites that don’t display on your standard smartphone even exist anymore?1 I could go through those boring ass stats, like “there are now more smartphones than toothbrushes,” or talk about the fact that people are using their phones to access the internet at a far greater clip than desktop users.

You want one of those posts, you’ve got a ton of options, so I won’t waste a ton of time making the business case for the fact that, yeah, mobile matters (and more so, every day).

Instead, just think about how you use your own smartphone. You probably go to sleep with it next to you, since you, like most people, probably use it as an alarm clock. It’s likely the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you see before going to bed at night.

The ubiquity of smartphones define our existence; we’re no longer ever alone, since we’re always connected. We don’t even have to boot up our Macbooks or PCs to check Google; all we have to do when we have some random ass question or argument (like a recent disagreement i had with a friend over whether or not a starfish truly is a mammal or not) is hit a button and ask Siri.

Smartphones have created an expectation of information immediacy, that we can find the answers for any question we have at any time, from anywhere, really, in the world. That expectation is increasingly expanding from random ponderings to include our expectations around looking for and applying for a job, too.

And, in case you were wondering, no, a starfish isn’t a mammal. Thanks, Siri.

Missed Messages, Dropped Calls: Once Upon A Time In Mobile Recruiting…

OK, I know that title’s probably a little cheesy. Alright, it’s cheesy as shit. I can’t really help it, because the more I personally look at career sites these days on my own smartphone, the more I wonder why employers seem to be so dumb about the importance mobile plays in improving that “candidate experience” buzzword we all seem to be buzzing about. Because here’s the thing: mobile optimization and candidate experience, really, are two sides of the same coin.

Let me explain in a little greater detail. When we look at what a truly mobile candidate experience truly looks like, while many employers have already invested in optimizing career sites or building apps for candidates or even sending mobile job alerts or candidate updates via SMS, these solutions are disjointed and almost always only align with one part of the hiring process instead of providing mobile options and optimizations congruent with every stage in the candidate lifecycle and company recruitment process.

From researching an opportunity to onboarding, mobile must be an enterprise enablement rather than a disjointed point solution. Mobile isn’t a feature or function; it’s a mindset.I know most of you are thinking, “yeah, whatever. We’ve got mobile. I’m good.”

Bullshit. I mean, be honest. How many of you recruiters out there actually believe you could get a candidate through the entire application, interviewing, offer and onboarding process using just their smartphones or mobile devices?

Every time I ask this question to a room of recruiters (as I’ve done several times), I get, at most, 10% of the people in the room agreeing with this statement, and the fact is, those 10% are likely misled, overconfident or just ignorant about their own mobile apply capabilities. This makes sense, considering what a paucity have actually audited their own application processes on a smartphone.

If you haven’t done so, I suggest giving it a try as soon as possible – you’re likely going to be surprised at just how immobile your “mobile recruiting” solutions truly are. That is, if you’re in the minority of employers who have any sort of mobile optimization at all – most don’t, yet, which is ridiculous.

It’s 2015, people. And considering the paucity of qualified candidates, coupled with the huge sums employers are spending on driving applicants through recruitment advertising and employer branding, it’s unbelievable that so many employers are driving away so many potential hires simply by not providing them a way to view or apply for jobs on the same devices that they, like most consumers, are most likely accessing online information with.

Considering that just over 50% of candidates drop off at some point between starting and finishing their application, avoiding mobile optimization is the quickest way to ensure a reduced recruiting ROI on your current talent acquisition spend (and reduce your candidate flow into a comparative trickle, too). If you’re not asking for mobile recruiting solutions, you’re asking for trouble. Period.

As bad as the current state of mobile recruiting might be, though, there are some even scarier issues emerging on the horizon. I know, this is hard to believe, but if you think it’s bad now, unless we make some major changes as an industry, it’s about to get way worse.

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