Expected to Bare It

BY SARA SHAH

If you are a female “PhD” — poor, hungry and determined — chances are that your drive to succeed professionally will strip you down to a bare minimum in terms of qualification. All foreign degrees, years of professional experience and recommendation letters take a backseat if the job interview is focused on how to take off… with your career. If you have been a victim, I sympathise with you and if you are a perpetrator, I can only offer you my strongest disapproval.

When my friend, an aspiring, young lawyer, told me about her recent interview ordeal, I wasn’t shocked, I was perturbed. Having applied for a position as deputy manager legal affairs at a leading cement manufacturing company based in Karachi, she was short-listed for the position and underwent a series of three rigorous interviews. From contract vetting to displaying a thorough understanding of property rights and the ability to enforce arbitral awards, the panel omitted no query of a litigious nature during the first two interviews which lasted for more than an hour each. On her way out at the end of the second round, she was even told that if she were to be hired, she should not miss the opportunity of socialising with the legal team here. Hopeful to land the job at the final interview, she entered the boardroom with a positive attitude. After being asked questions on how she would socialise within the legal fraternity and how assertive she is in her profession, she was informed that she wasn’t the right candidate for the job. What followed was, “Take my card and hide it under your mobile. You are not good at giving interviews, nor is your CV properly made. Contact me some time later and join me over a cup of coffee and we shall discuss further.” If you are naïve you will take the bait but if you know better you will launch a sexual harassment complaint.

Question remains that if the employer did not find the candidate’s resume impressive, why call her for an interview? And if the candidate did not present well in the first two interviews, why call her for the third one? And if the intention was to fix the candidate’s resume, why ask her to sheath the business card and meet over coffee? For a company that claims to be the largest cement exporter with a concrete reputation, its vision and mission is questionable and its values certainly tainted. Not only was this unprofessional, but also in poor taste.

To single out the company for this misconduct, however, is unjust as it is the individuals who bear the responsibility of carrying out the firm’s corporate philosophy. Nevertheless, it is imperative for every organisation to provide a comfortable working environment for its employees and to prevent such practices in the future. Promotions in the organisation should be conditional to prevent higher-ups from misusing their power, as was the misfortune in this particular case.

Equal employment opportunity should therefore not be a utopian concept, even if it involves a female employer accessing a male candidate for a job that requires utter respect for the law.

-the writer is a legal advisor to the Express Media Group