A professional acquaintance of mine is a manager in a UK tech startup. As he was getting a lot of pressure from HR to diversify his hiring, he thought he found a good workaround by taking on an intern. The candidate he got was originally from Eastern Europe and, so she told him in the interview, moved to the West due to her husband getting a job abroad. As she wanted to work in tech as well, just like her husband who had an advanced degree and years of experience, she did a two-month long “bootcamp” and was now ready to take on the world. He gave her the job because this kept HR off his back and, at best, this woman would be marginally productive, even though his hopes weren’t high.
As it turned out, the woman was not particularly useful but he did not mind. Overall, her productivity was negative as she needed a lot of handholding and her work frequently had to be redone by someone else. Eventually, her six-month internship drew to a close. Then the director he reported to ambushed him, together with HR. He was told that he should create a position for this woman because “everybody likes her” and it is “really important that we have a diverse workforce”. The woman professed that she “really likes working here” and that she was “very happy about her job” so, clearly, this was a perfect match.
Yet, the timing was not the best for her. After all, in May this year startups started to get a bit more cost conscious, due to rapidly worsening economic conditions. This means that preserving cash was suddenly seen as important again, but not too important in this case because the company went ahead and made he an offer. There was only enough budget for an entry-level position, which, to be fair, was quite generous. When it came to offering this position to this enterprising and not-so-young woman, the manager got a rather unexpected response. Instead of showing a modicum of gratitude for being offered an entry-level position, despite her lack of qualifications, she seemed pretty upset and demanded a “proper job”, and she also wanted GBP 100k euros/year “because that’s an adequate number”. She indicated that she would accept 94k, however, as that was the median according to a salary aggregator website she found online. Well, the problem is that she was not really qualified, so it did not make much sense to pay her as if she had a relevant Master’s degree and five to seven years of solid work experience, and the median employee surely has more than zero years of relevant work experience.
Not willing to accept the supposed low-ball offer, the woman attempted to strengthen her position by revealing key arguments. She needed more money because she wants to move out and have her own place in London and, clearly, she needed the salary of a mid to senior-level employee for that. You can guess that in her narrative, life is not fair, and that there is a horrible gender pay gap, but the fact that she hardly even borderline qualified matters little. In the end, she got offered less than she wanted, but much more than she deserved.
The bigger issue at display here is the misguided tale of female empowerment. Clearly, she quickly bought into the Western narrative, and it took less than a year to turn her into a devout Easter European wife into a strong, independent Western wahman in spirit, to whom the world owes a living. Clearly, if the average salary for a particular job in a country is X, she deserves more than that, even when she is woefully unqualified and has essentially zero experience. I would not at all be surprised if she bought the marketing message of her IT bootcamp provider hook, line, and sinker, and thought that with a high-paying IT job, she will make as much or more than her husband, move up in life, and be able to replace him with someone who makes as much as she in her imagined future. Then reality gave her a slap across the face, making her realize that she will not get paid lavishly for doing no work. There are such jobs, but they are limited in number.
On a much more serious note, the plan of this woman would probably have worked out very well had she been a bit faster. If her husband had moved to Western Europe before the peak of the last bubble, she probably could have gotten a diversity role and make as much or more than her husband. When tech was booming and funding was easy to get, companies thought that there were few causes more worth pursuing than spending money on diversity. In the last few months, the tide has turned, with some big players such as Twitter or Shopify laying off people, with a heavy focus on HR, communications, and marketing. The times of plenty are over. Now this woman may have to reconsider her decision of going her own way. Still, in our engineered economic system, money supply gets expanded and contracted in a steady rhythm, so people who do not really contribute will have a hard time in the long run.
You sometimes wonder how women think. In this case, someone should have sat her down and properly explained the available options to her. Perhaps in Eastern Europe someone would have done that. Now she is starting at zero, and may have a very hard time reaching the lifestyle her husband provided for her free-of-charge. I really wonder what it is about sitting in front of a computer all day that is more appealing for women than being a homemaker and mother. Greed and a lack of long-term thinking surely do not help either. Oh, and in her case, she recently told her manager during a break that living on her own, in her presumably shitty and overpriced studio apartment in London, was not as nice as she had imagined, and that she was able to sort out her “differences” with her partner, moving back in with him.