Friday, June 27, 2014

A Perfect Come-back to Matt Lauer’s Dumb, Sexist Interview Question

On Thursday, Today Show host Matt Lauer asked GM CEO Mary Barra this question about her suitability to be both a mom and a CEO:

“Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?”

There is, of course, no record of Lauer having asked a similarly-ranked dude the same question.

Barra replied with perfect poise, “You know, I think I can” and went on to describe the support she receives from her team and family. But just imagine the backlash she would have been subjected to had she declined to answer, or even worse, called him out.

As the topic trended on Twitter, hands down the best tweet came from @Jezebel who asked “Can Matt Lauer be both a sexist _____ and a good dad?”

When you’re asked a dumb, sexist question, is there ever any good way to respond?

Years ago, a coaching client who was going for a senior-level position was asked the same question in a large group town-hall style job interview. Someone in the audience yelled “You can’t ask that. It’s illegal!”

She smiled innocently, answering the question with a question. “How did (the other candidates) Mr. X and Mr. Y answer that?”

People cheered. She got the job, and became one of the highest-ranked women in her profession.

What’s your favorite come-back to a dumb, sexist question?

Jo Miller is CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc. Follow her on Twitter at @jo_miller


Kate McKeon said...

I love your client's response and poise. Bravo. But before we chastise all the would-be Matt Lauers, remember it is better to know what they are really thinking and have them ask than to assume.

I faced a stupid amount of backlash from professors (the female profs) when I applied to my PhD in Finance. One prestigious prof said, did not ask, "Well obviously you'll just be coming here to have babies. I will not support you as a candidate."


Nancy W. said...

During a job interview, I was asked the question, "what would you consider a reasonable wage for someone with your qualifications?" My answer was, "whatever you'd pay a man with my experience."