Taking a Chance — How We Can Stand Up Against Bias

In the Jewish bible, there is a concept of speaking up. Even if it means speaking up to God.

The concept is shown vividly by a group of people not allowed to present God with offering (״למה נגרע?״, “Why should we be excluded”, Numbers 9:7). They take a chance and speak up — and the verdict is overturned.

I’m going to share an experience related to a job search as a woman. I wish it will encourage more people, specifically more women, to take a chance and speak up when we know something is wrong.


While going through my inbox, I found the following e-mail:

Hi Reut Sharabani,

I hope you are well.

I follow you on Github and was hoping you may be open to speaking with our head of engineering regarding an opportunity.

Here is the role https://redacted.link/to/job/description. We are looking to pay about XX to XX ILS per month (bonus + stock).

Please share a good time to speak and the best number.

T —

Most of us who have been in tech for a while, get these emails constantly. I didn’t think much of it. After reading the job description briefly I found out I didn’t meet the minimal criteria so I replied:

Hi T —

Thank you for considering me as a candidate but I do not have the minimal requirements stated.

I’ve worked with <some tech> professionally for under 4 years while you require “6+ years of substantial experience with <some tech>”.

Good luck finding the right person :)

And didn’t think much of it.

I was impressed that the company stated salary range, which is not the norm in Israel, although I believe it should be (but this is for another article).

Other than the salary range it just looked like another recruiter trying to find candidates and I simply archived the email and moved on with my day.


Almost immediately, I received the following response:

Hey Reut,

Thank you for coming back.

We are considering the quality of code (rather than the experience), we really only need 3 years of <some tech> in order to be skilled.

You defiantly meet the level!

Are you open to having a call to discuss a little further?


T —

This is where I got curious.

So it now seemed like it was a personal email and not just a recruiter fishing for candidates, which was flattering on a personal level. What really stood out to me is that I had dismissed the job immediately because I hadn’t met its requirements (even though I’d otherwise dismissed it because I am not looking for a job). But the recruiter, who literally does this for a living, suggested I should probably apply.


A Linkedin report showing insights regarding gender, collected from their job-search data, showed something that many women probably already know:

Research shows that in order to apply for a job women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.

LinkedIn behavioral data backs this up — women tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and end up applying to fewer jobs than men.

It showed that while women feel they should meet 100% of the criteria to apply for a job, men feel they should only meet 60% (statistically). While I disagree with the last sentence (women do not “screen themselves”, job descriptions screen women for their honesty). The experience requirement, which turned out to not be a requirement, was the part of the recruiter’s reply that immediately stood out to me.

I’m sure I have already skipped tens if not hundreds of job opportunities for the exact same reason, but receiving it as a personal reply made it “sink in” in a more profound way.


I thought about it for the rest of the day when I finally decided to tweet about it just to hear more opinions. Unfortunately my initial tweet got no meaningful replies and I think most people only thought “Just take the opportunity or leave it.”. So I decided to take it one step further and write in a big Israeli Facebook tech group.

I don’t have the original text anymore, but I wrote something along the lines of:


I was recently approached by a recruiter regarding a job interview.

The job description states that 6+ years of experience in <some tech> is required while I only have 4 years of experience. So I told the recruiter I don’t meet the criteria and wished them luck in finding the right candidate.

They replied they actually only care about code quality and that 3 years is actually enough. They also mentioned they got to me through GitHub/StackOverflow.

The job pays really well, and they did state the salary range in the initial approach while I value because I do not negotiate salary, but I am very bothered they mentioned 6+ years as a requirement when its probably just a “nice to have”.

I know that if they hadn’t proactively approached me and I’d read that job description I wouldn’t even consider applying since the requirements state I don’t fit the job.

I know this is not intentional, but measurably this culture mostly excludes women from jobs.

I don’t know if I should say something or just leave it. I know it probably won’t matter but I’d like them to consider it.

What would you do?

Instantly, my post started receiving a flood of replies by people asking if I’m “stupid” or just an “angry feminist” who is “looking for something to be mad about”. Most people completely missed the point, saying the fact they approached me means this “can’t be against women”. I even got replies from recruiters saying its my fault I don’t understand the market and that it’s just the way things are and its never “going to change” so I should “just leave it”.

There were, however, some replies (100% by women) who tried to answer constructively. Most of them missed the point as well and told me I should be more confident and just apply (this is totally not the point I was trying to make).

Initially I tried to reply to the comments with clarifications and even linked the LinkedIn article to some, but I soon realized it’s pointless and just closed my Facebook tab and went on with my day thinking it’s a lost cause. My post eventually got deleted from the group and I felt this was a done matter.


Later that day, I got a private message on my twitter, by someone who read my initial tweet and then my Facebook post. She also replied on Facebook but this DM was about something else:

I highly recommend you rewrite your post in <Women’s Israeli Facebook tech group>. It’s much more pleasant and supportive.

After some questions I decided to ask to join the group, and several days later I was confirmed and added.

I wrote (roughly) the same post, but this time most replies were constructive, meaningful, insightful and useful. There was no rage and no name-calling. I replied to each of them with my thoughts and processed it together with them. I did have my strong conviction about the matter, but it needed more “shaping” if I was going to say something. The replies there really helped me clarify to myself what I want to say and how I should say it.

After some back-and-forth in several threads, I decided I should write back since what I’m thinking isn’t that far-fetched. I ended up with the following message:

Hi T — ,

Thank you for getting back to me.

I’m sorry for the late reply but I think I’ll skip this (very attractive) opportunity.

I’m also thrilled that you mentioned the salary range in your initial email. I was very impressed since I never saw this and I think it should be the norm.

I do have one thing to mention:

If I’d seen this job description (without you approaching me) and was interested — I would never apply.
I do not have what is mentioned as “needed to succeed”, or practically — minimal requirements.

I think a lot of other women would not apply as well.

There is a “nice to have” section which further implies no applications outside the “needed to succeed” are acceptable.

Perhaps some of these “needed to succeed” are actually “nice to haves”?

Specifically page 7 of this review by linkedin (which has available a lot of job-search data) states that women are much less likely to apply for jobs if they don’t meet ~100% of the criteria while men only feel they should meet ~60%.

So I think another big step forward is trying to avoid such statements or at least making them optional. I believe you’ll get a lot more CVs from women this way, which are equally as qualified as men CVs you are receiving today.

I do not attribute any of this to bad intent but I thought about it a lot (two facebook posts and a twitter tweet) and felt like I wanted to say something. I wish you good luck in finding the right candidate!

Reut :)

I felt like I did the right thing, and it felt good, but I didn’t expect an answer. In fact, some replies in the second group I had written in, had said (constructively) that its was pointless as well. Several hundreds of messages between the two Facebook posts — not one person had said I should have responded. Women had shared with me their experiences, which were much like my experience. But they hadn’t thought these experiences would have made any difference to the recruiter.

I thought the recruiter would just take me for an annoying person trying to waste their time, delete my response and go on with their day. I thought the only response I was ever going to get (and even that seemed unlikely) is along the lines of “OK, good luck” (perhaps even with a facepalm emoji).


What actually happened is that they read the mail and like I said, I was … Wrong:

Hey Reut,

Thank you for your feedback.

I am new to the region (hopefully relocating soon) and feel I have so much to learn, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me.

Having considered your feedback the Talent team are now working on the following

* Information added to the Job Descriptions about what the team work on

* What tech skillset we use (rather than “needed” or “nice to have”)

* Gender natural language that will appeal to both men and women

Would you be willing to have an informal chat with G— G — ? He would want to get more feedback about sourcing and he was REALLY impressed by your Github and StackOverflow and in addition your openness and transparency


T —


The current standards when recruiting in tech contain biases. They favor certain people because they were formed when only these people were in tech. It may seem that we have to “adapt” to them. As if they are innately true and were always there. But they favor the people who made them.

The way job descriptions are written, salary negotiations, asking for a raise — they’ve been there for years. All of them contain flaws that miss their original point:

  • Job descriptions should filter skills, not “confidence” (or the willingness to ignore requirements). They should include the bare minimum for an employer to consider a candidate. Its OK to add a “nice to have” section but it should also be minimal, as should requirements.
  • Salary negotiations are a way for your employer to minimize pay. You should always refuse them and state in advance that you will only consider the first offer. The best practice should be to include a salary (range) in the job description.
  • Raises should be given to you if you are an undervalued employee. You shouldn’t be asking for them. You should definitely not feel bad for not asking for them when you deserve them. It is a failure of your employer, not yours. If you asked and got a raise it probably means you were paid less than what your value for your employer is for a certain amount of time. Periodic salary discussions (which are becoming the norm) are the solution.

We can also participate in shaping the standards. We can speak our mind when something is broken. We should not be excluded.

— — All e-mails in this text are exact copy+paste (with names removed), typos included.



coding the tech debt of tomorrow

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