Female Programmer Says She Was Denied a Job Because of Her Outfit

Finding a job post-graduation in this economic climate is difficult enough, but an Oberlin student recently faced one of the most ridiculous, sexist impediments to her job search of all: She was rejected from a position because of her outfit. 

"I was denied a programming job because allegedly, in my interview, I 'looked more like I was about to go clubbing than to an interview,'" Elizabeth Bentivegna wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week, which was later tweeted by her friend, BuzzFeed writer Alanna Bennett. Bentivegna added, "I literally just got denied a job on an all-male development team for what I was wearing."

The interview to which Bentivegna wore this outfit was not her first with the company, OnShift, she told the Daily Dot. Last month, an OnShift recruiter contacted Bentivegna, who said she felt she had a fair shot at the position. 

"I felt very good about all of my conversations — I thought I got along very well with everyone and I got a good vibe from the environment," she told the Daily Dot. "One of the engineers asked me a programming question and my answer was correct — he even complimented me on asking a question about the problem that none of the other candidates had asked."

Yet, when given feedback about why she was eventually rejected, the recruiter reportedly told Bentivegna that although the company would "love to hire [her] based on [her] technical skills and personality," the company deemed her "unprofessional and not put-together" based on her outfit, which they described as more appropriate for "clubbing" than an interview.

To prove her point, the student posted an image of the outfit in question (which, in addition to the above dress, included a sweater and black tights). "If I had been a man would it have mattered what I was wearing?" she asked in her Facebook post. "This is an office of mostly men where they wear jeans and t-shirts — a woman comes in wearing something mildly sexual and this is somehow indicative of her dedication and work ethic?" 

Rather than honor the accuracy of Bentivegna's account of encountering a double standard that evaluates women based on puritanical standards of appearance, some Twitter users instead blamed Bentivegna for the situation. 

Bennett raised the point that professionalism is relative and shouldn't and can't be evaluated through one's clothing choice alone. 

Beyond the outfit Bentivegna wore to the interview, her experience counters the idea that hiring decisions should rest on candidates' qualifications alone, especially when that is the only metric used to evaluate male candidates. 

The fact that Bentivegna faced this treatment for a position with what she said was "an all-male development team" is also meaningful. Studies show that young women already shy away from entering the science, tech, engineering and math fields for a variety of gendered, culturally embedded reasons. Evidence of gender-based discrimination after women do choose to enter the field is hardly encouraging for prospects of achieving parity. 

Luckily, some members of the tech community responded in a positive way, noting — as one user did — that appearance is "not a factor" for hiring at their companies. Hopefully, their outlook will become the norm and future female programmers will only have to worry about their résumés, not their wardrobes.

h/t the Daily Dot

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Julie Zeilinger

Julie Zeilinger is a staff writer at Mic as well as the founder and editor of The FBomb (thefbomb.org), a feminist blog partnered with the Women’s Media Center. She is also the author of "A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word" and "College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year."

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