I am an Indian female. The situations I have described below are with regard to Indian citizens within India.

I have attended a few interviews in the past. There were certain things that the interviewers made me uncomfortable about. I remained calm during all those situations. Now, I am planning to attend interviews again and do not want to face such awkward situations again. I am listing down a few of them:

  1. Male interviewers staring at my boobs and stealing glances when I am answering.
  2. Some of the interviewers ask me to explain something on the board and while I am doing so, they tend to stare at my ass. And again, steal glances.
  3. India has many regional languages. It is a very common tendency to speak to other panel members in their respective language. I understand 2-3 such languages*, and sometimes they were very derogatory. I maintained a poker face then.

I dress appropriately for the interviews. It is formal, but I can't hide the silhouette.

Should I ignore this, or address it?

* I actually list those on my resume. And there are other languages which I do not completely understand but the context makes it clear. That is probably because a few languages have many common words

closed as unclear what you're asking by Masked Man, Philip Kendall, gnat, Michael Grubey, Jim G. Sep 4 '17 at 5:22

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    Hello, welcome to The Workplace. If it happens again, report sexual harassment to the company's HR. Not sure how seriously they will take the complaint, but there's not a lot you can do besides that. You can certainly take the legal route if you feel strongly about it. – Masked Man Sep 3 '17 at 17:48
  • @MaskedMan Most of the time, HR dealing with these kind of interviews are in their early stages of career. Can I tell them directly that I was not comfortable with the panel? – user75512 Sep 3 '17 at 17:52
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    Their stage of career is not relevant. They are HR Professionals, and it is their job to take care of HR issues. If the company has a policy of zero tolerance of sexual harassment, it usually applies to employees, contractors, and visitors (such as interview candidates). Some companies also provide an option to submit any complaints anonymously, you can use that. Like I said, I am skeptical how seriously they will take the complaint, but you can try. Remember India is a huge country, you can always find plenty of companies where people behave professionally. – Masked Man Sep 3 '17 at 17:58
  • @MaskedMan Thank you for the inputs. Complaining and acting on it part, I am skeptical too. But, let me see how it goes, as and when I face it. What about the rest of the issues, speaking in other native languages, 'you-can-leave-for-the-day' comment? How do I allow not to impact it on me? – user75512 Sep 3 '17 at 18:02
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    BTW There is the wider issue that this behavior may be indicative of a larger sexist work environment, not just the interview. – Jan Doggen Sep 4 '17 at 7:28

You have a number of topics within your question, so let's focus on the titled question - the sexist environment.

I won't even attempt to tell you that I understand what you, personally, are dealing as I am looking at this from the perspective of a) a male, and b) an American. However, I can empathize and I most sincerely do.

Male interviewers staring at my boobs and stealing glances when I am answering.

If you are catching them, they are obviously oblivious to the fact that they are being not only rude, but disgusting. While you can't stop them from looking, you can catch their attention by asking a complex follow up question.

You need something to break their (lack of) train of thought and engaging people in a dialog is one sure way to do that. Also ensure that you keep good eye contact. If they are stealing glances, they know on some level what they are doing is wrong. Strong, but not aggressive eye contact (subconsciously) lets them know that you are aware of their gaze.

Some of the interviewers ask me to explain something on the board and while I am doing so, they tend to stare at my ass. And again, steal glances.

Unfortunately, until we actually have eyes in the back of our heads, we can't see what others do. However, you can mitigate some of this by positioning yourself at an angle to the board as you write. In other words, don't stand perpendicular to the board. Look back to the audience (more) often. It won't stop them, but it will also communicate that they may be caught being rude.

Some advice...

  • Dressing "appropriately" is subjective. Dress for the position you want not the one you are applying for. In other words, if you want to be a VP, dress like a VP.

  • Never let them see you coming (American expression). You said that you spoke up to 3 languages. Don't let them know this unless it's a requirement. If the derision is something you can tolerate, it's better to get information than to get insulted.

Remember, in the 1980s and 1990s Japanese businessmen understood English whereas their American counterparts didn't understand Japanese. The Americans foolishly spoke openly about their positions while the Japanese pretended to not understand. It gave them a huge advantage while negotiating.

Bottom line: while it may be a "social victory" to get these males to change, it's unlikely you're going to do it overnight and by yourself. In the meantime use their foolishness to your advantage.

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    "until we actually have eyes in the back of our heads" Actually, women can (usually) tell by instinct when someone is staring at their private parts, even if they cannot see the person doing it. Good answer otherwise. – Masked Man Sep 4 '17 at 6:53
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    @MaskedMan We frequently do. It's not anything about eyes in the back of the head, but closely correlated by how much they're looking at our boobs. It's a safe bet that if we turn around they're looking at our butts too. – Jane S Sep 4 '17 at 8:16

This is normal enough. Many women get hired solely on the boobs/butt combination. It's an unfortunate fact of life that you can either use to your advantage or not. Some countries you can sue the company for overtly sexist behaviour, but I don't think India is one where you could do so and have a guaranteed positive outcome if at all.

Now, I am planning to attend interviews again and do not want to face such awkward situations again.

Apply for jobs where you're certain you will be interviewed only by women, and you still may get the surreptious looks, but possibly be more comfortable with them.

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    I'm so glad I don't work for you. – shellco Sep 4 '17 at 5:16
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    @Sadurnias I hire based on experience and competence, because I need professional specialists, but many people hire at least partially based on looks. I'm just being pragmatic with my answer. I could make up some touchy feely PC rubbish, but it wouldn't help the OP – Kilisi Sep 4 '17 at 6:57
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    i appreciate the sentiment, but the expression - "boobs/butt combination" - is poor, and comes across as sexist. Perhaps "hired based on looks" would be better. – bharal Sep 4 '17 at 7:44
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    neither boobs nor butt are offensive in my culture, the word the OP used is much worse. – Kilisi Sep 4 '17 at 7:52
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    "This is normal enough." I would say this is common enough. Calling it "normal" (involuntarily) justifies the behavior. – Thern Sep 4 '17 at 9:46

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