Is it illegal for me to only consider women for a position I'm about to advertise for?


My startup's products will primarily be purchased by women, and thus I'd like to hire a sales and marketing director who is a woman. Is it against the law for me to advertise this position that I'm about to create as only available to women?

Obviously I can go the route of interviewing everyone equally and then only choosing from the women to 'get around' the appearance of discrimination, but I'd prefer to not waste my time on candidates that definitely will not be getting the position if possible. Thoughts?


asked Jan 5 '11 at 13:13
51 points
  • Good question. I'm also curious as to whether Hooters prevailed against EEOC back in the mid-90's. Anyone know? – Henry The Hengineer 13 years ago
  • It might be helpful if you tell us what country you're in, and possibly also what part of the country if it has different legal systems in different parts of the country. – Mike Scott 13 years ago
  • Can you specify the jurisdiction - US? – Ross 13 years ago

6 Answers


Maybe. There are both state and federal employment laws to consider.

The federal laws are pretty clear. Title VII calls for a "bona fide occupational qualification", and what you've described is not one. If it were, anyone could skirt the law by saying something like, my target demographic is executives, and no executive takes a woman seriously. The good news is, Title VII only kicks in at 15 employees. So, if you have less than that, discriminate away.

State laws vary from, well, state to state. Sometimes they add some new discrimination categories (sexual orientation, for example), sometimes they are the same but kick in with fewer employees.

That said, your logic for seeking only a woman is flawed. One could just as easily say that only a man would know how to market to women since he has an outside perspective and can objectively look at what women want. Actually, they used to say that all the time...

answered Jan 5 '11 at 14:33
Alex Papadimoulis
5,901 points


Don't know - call me jaded, but I believe reducing potential hires based on their sex is shortsighted unless there is a true "Bona Fide Occupational Qualification " (BFOQ) in place.

Really, how do you know that the candidate doesn't know the market, have experience, etc. to be a valuable contributor to the effort? Tons of males work in the cosmetics industry. Tons of females work in construction trade. Can you be so sure that because of their sex they will not understand or be successful? To say so unequivocally is absurd. It is the person, their skills and experiences that should be reviewed, not what is below the belt.

answered Jan 5 '11 at 13:58
Jim Galley
9,952 points
  • I like this answer, it reflects my feelings that it may not be sexist to hire for a certain role based on gender... but it may be sexist to automatically assume that someone is better for a role based on their gender. There are plenty of men and women who design fashion clothing for both/the opposite gender and seem to do quite well at it, for example. – Rob M 13 years ago
  • You obviously never ran your own business. You should mind your own business. This post was not meant for your opinion... it was a question directed at persons to provide factual insight into the law. If it wasn't 3 am I would create 7 fake account and down vote you in the negative. – Brisco Wildchild 7 years ago


You may have to be prepared to explain why a man can't do the job. Would a trans-gender person qualify? Are all of your sales people going to be women? If not, no justification to hiring only female managers. Here is something interesting: If this is correct, you may have a legal problem. Keep it to yourself and hope no males apply.

answered Jan 5 '11 at 13:39
Jeff O
6,169 points


The safe thing to do would be not to explicitly state that you will only consider women for the position, but rather to word the job description in such a way that it naturally resonates more with women, if such a thing is possible. Maybe a woman could write the job description as a starting point?

Also it is worth reflecting on your preconceived notions that a woman candidate would a priori outperform a man candidate.

answered Jan 5 '11 at 13:40
Nathan Farrington
221 points


I hate discrimination, but depending on the state you are in, if you are under certain number of full time employees (in Massachusetts, where I am, I heard it is 5), certain non-discrimination laws do not apply.

answered Jan 5 '11 at 13:59
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points
  • Your first sentence nobody give a fuck about! – Brisco Wildchild 7 years ago


All of you who stated discrimination are idiots.

If someone wants only women to work for them, thats his fucking business.

answered May 4 '17 at 06:52
Brisco Wildchild
1 point

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