When you're job hunting rejections are expected. Most of the time you can expect a "thanks but no thanks" email or to be ghosted. It's rare to be given a reason. However, a woman in Lausanne, Switzerland received a reason why she had been rejected: She's not male.

This email from a senior recruiter at Interiman, says while they would think about her as a candidate if she had more experience, they really prefer a male candidate.

The Original French:

En fait, par rapport à votre candidature et votre parcours il leur manque une expérience plus confirmée dans un poste (3 à 5 ans) avec le côté AP et AR, étant donné qu'il s'agit d'une équipe de femmes qui sont seniors. Ils pensent qu'un profil masculin ferait du bien à l'équipe, cela n'a rien à voir avec le fait de discriminer les femmes. Bien au contraire, dans l'équipe comptable il ont 12 femmes et la responsable de tout le département comptable & finances qui reporte au directeur financier est aussi une femme. Tout cela les a amené à cette réflexion simplement.

Si vous aviez une expérience plus confirmée, je pense qu'ils auraient pu considérer votre candidature, mais à choisir, s'ils le peuvent, ils seraont contents d'avoir plutôt un profil masculin.

Je me tiens à votre disposition si vous avez des questions.

English Translation  (done by a friend of mine, not a professional translator):

In fact, regarding your application and history, there is an absence of experience in a more established position (3 to 5 years) in the area AP and AR. Given the fact they are a team of women who are senior, they think that a male profile would be good for the team. This has nothing to do with discrimination of women. On the contrary, in the accounting team, there are 12 women and the department leader of accounting and finance who reports to the director of finances is also a woman. All this simply contributes to this perspective.

If you had a more established experience, I think they would be able to consider your candidacy, but given the choice, if they could, they would be more happy to have more of a masculine profile.

I remain at your disposal if you have any questions

The stated reason? The team has several senior females on it, so they would prefer a male candidate. The candidate doesn't have enough experience, but they really would prefer a man. I'm sure we all understand, right? We need a man to supervise women--can't let the ladies handle themselves!

I was pretty sure this was illegal, but I'm not an expert on Swiss law, so I contacted Employment Attorney Christine Bassanello. She told me,

Any rejection of a candidate purely based on the gender is regarded as discriminating by Swiss law. The candidate may claim damages afore court up to a maximum of three monthly salaries. Where a number of candidates are claiming the same, the total indemnity may not exceed these three monthly salaries.

If this is illegal, why would a recruiter be so open about rejecting a candidate because of her gender? Well, for one thing, culture. I spoke with many local people who explained to me that "this is just how it is." 

Laws don't do a thing if we simply say, "well, this is how things are." If we don't stand up for our rights and we don't speak up when something like this happens, things will never change.

Interestingly, there are many people in the United States that argue for just this type of discrimination--except with the genders swapped. California says we must have women on Boards of Directors because we already have men on them. How does this differ from this Swiss recruiting agency that says there are too many women so we need a man?"

It doesn't. 

We have women only co-working spaces, we say women need to be mentored by women, and we talk about ways to retain women. Switzerland is just the flip side of this--there are many people who want to ensure men are in certain positions.

When it comes down to it, legally and morally, in both the United States and Switzerland, we shouldn't be considering gender for almost all positions. There are a few cases where US law allows for gender given that there is a "bona fide occupational qualification." Things like requiring TSA officers to have one male and one female available for pat downs falls under this category. But for accountants? Nope. For managers of lots of senior women? Nope.

I contacted the recruiting agency for a response, and they have not replied. If they provide an explanation, I will update. 

Published on: Oct 29, 2018