To Hire Or Not To Hire?
Addressing the conflict women leaders have when hiring other women.
It is a complicated position to be a woman in leadership because, at some point, you will inevitably face a difficult decision: hiring the best talent for the job or hire a woman. Sure, there will be times when the best talent for the job is a woman, but what do you do when, on paper, the best talent for the job is not the woman? And worse yet, what do you do when the distinction between the candidates us unclear?
I have spent countless hours talking to competent friends and colleagues in leadership positions about this issue. I’ve found that while many commonalities shape our opinions, there are still distinct differences in what we practice.
The list below summarizes the common viewpoints that I believe most confident and capable women in leadership positions share. It represents the common ground we come from when making our hiring choices.
We need more women in leadership positions because they bring diversity of thought and a different life experience and approach to problem solving.
It is empowering for the younger generations of women to see women in leadership positions.
Strong examples of female leadership can help change unconscious biases that men are more natural leaders and that traditionally male characteristics make a strong leader.
We should use caution when promoting women into leadership positions before they are ready. The injustice of premature promotions creates negative feelings that can damage the reputations of all women.
The thought that you achieved your position because of a quota that needed filling feels horrible. No competent woman I know ever wants to feel like the “token female.”
Imposter Syndrome is real (Clance and Imes, 1978) when you doubt your abilities and question whether you deserve to be in a position. It applies to both women and men. As a result, when you couple Imposter Syndrome with “tokenism,” women tend to start less secure in their positions than their male peers. This problem is potentially debilitating for women in their early careers.
These commonly held views create a strong and unspoken bond between women in leadership positions, but how do we shape these guiding beliefs into a hiring strategy we can all feel good about when the frustrating truth is that our views are often conflicting? For example, we all agree that we need more strong women leaders, but promoting someone who may be a little too green may backfire and somehow make us all look bad.