Dismantle Power Imbalances on the Job Interview Panels

Have you ever been in an interview and you wonder whether you walked into or logged into (now that we migrated to the virtual space) a criminal interrogation room? Why do these spaces have to be so unfriendly and unsafe? The candidates are already anxious; why do you have to intensify the anxiety levels?

I recently came across a comment made by a panelist saying he was really shocked at how the young people are writing their CVs. He went ahead to say that the CVs did not tell him who the candidates were, and for some he could not even guess their age. “Some of the documents are just nice write ups!”. I was furious. Why on earth does this man choose to just focus on the age of the candidates rather than their skills, knowledge, values and motivation towards the job?  Pause!!!! I know why? Either he deliberately chooses to use power and authority as a panelist irresponsibly or he is simply ignorant.

So Dear Panelists,

I am a young African woman who wants to share feedback with you on what we young women go through in the job interview spaces. There is absolute patriarchy in the job interview spaces where “patriarchal ideology enables and legitimizes the structuring of every aspect of our lives by establishing the framework within which society defines and views men and women”. Why can’t candidates be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice and autonomy regarding their age, sexual identity and orientation.  As long as one is 18 years and above, has the requisite skills and experience to work, why not give them the opportunity and listen?  Why is the recruitment process for the youth especially young women below 35 years viewed as a favor, helping and purely an “empowerment” opportunity?  Many institutions and society at large always set the agenda on how young women should behave and rarely do these institutions view youth as experts hence the need to listen and learn from them. This narrative is biased. Institutions need to be flexible and open to new dynamics, new ways of being and thinking. Change is not linear.

I agree that a majority of countries in Africa have limited job opportunities but that does not mean when opportunities open up, we treat young women as non-experienced and incapable of performing.  Institutions or individuals will not lose anything if they intentionally decided to be “People-centered” or institutions with a soul. The only thing to be lost in this case is pride, micromanagement, disrespect, judging, intimidation and domineering. Alvin Toffler says that “the illiterates of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write, but those unwilling to learn, unlearn and relearn”.

That is why “We Should ALL Be Feminists” and subscribe to the Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists because African feminists acknowledge that women and girls in all their diversity struggle to be seen and heard and must therefore continue to “question the legitimacy of the structures that keep women subjugated and hence commit to develop tools for transformatory analysis and action.” So dear panelists, women and young women in particular have multiple and varied identities. Their professionalism and qualifications are not defined by their age and their physical appearance. If institutions are genuine about nurturing, mentoring (and femtoring) and providing opportunities for growth and development to the youth, then there needs to be a paradigm shift that centers the diverse needs of the youth in a respectful, non- matronizing/ patronizing manner.

Life is interesting. We often forget where and how we started. Do you ever reflect on your career path? You see, when you are young and vibrant you think you will never grow old and when you are old you forget that you were once young.

Dear Panelists, I urge you to embrace and practice mindfulness, safeguarding, respect for all, power- sharing, accountability and a transformatory agenda in all your interview panels and workplace culture.

Yours sincerely,

Proud African Young Woman

Esther Nyawira, FEMNET’s Lead for Adolescent & Young Women Programming

Follow on twitter @ENyawirah

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