female guest

What NOT to ask a female guest on your podcast

In honor of International Women’s Day 2021, John and Katie wanted to partner up on a blog post and walk through some do’s and don’t of interviewing a female guest on your podcast. 

KatieKatie Robbert, a female, has frequently been asked the same questions over and over that provide no value to an interview. 


John Wall

John, a male, frequently interviews female guests on his podcast, Marketing Over Coffee, and steers clear of goofy questions that these women often get asked.

So what are these questions and why should you avoid them? Before we get into all the questions, we wanted to walk through why you shouldn’t ask them. John has the “dude test” which is essentially flipping the question around to see if you would ask the same question of a man. If the answer is no, it probably doesn’t provide value. 

Are there exceptions? Sure. However, women should be able to tell their stories on their terms – not because an interviewer is looking to get some salacious nugget of information that will help promote their podcast. Don’t exploit us*. 

*Note that Katie does not represent the opinions of all women. These views only represent her experiences. Some women do want to tell their stories and need these podcasts as a platform. Let them make that decision, do not force them into it. When in doubt, ask them ahead of the recording. 

Katie:  I don’t mind talking about my experience as a woman in a technical field. It’s had plenty of challenges – including not being able to secure funding for Trust Insights because I was a female CEO. However, my negative experiences are only a fraction of my story and because it’s where interviewers tend to focus, the rest of my story gets lost. 

John: The important thing for me is that I’m always looking for interesting stories, that’s all I’m interested in. From there I have been making a conscious effort to make sure women are represented when possible, so that comes later in the decision. I say “Ok, here’s three interesting people, but if I have two old white guys and one woman I’ll check out the woman’s story first because I want to make sure our female listeners have someone they can identify with when they hear the story.

So what are some of the questions that you should reconsider?

Here’s a list of starters and reasons to avoid them. 

What is it like being a female CEO?

Katie: Being a “female” marketer, CEO, etc is not unique. There are plenty of us out there. Instead, ask, “Tell me about your experience as a Marketing, as a CEO” – If I want to bring up my gender I will. Don’t force me into it. Also, how many times have you heard, “What is it like being a male CEO?” Never. I rest my case. 

As a woman, how do you handle all of your responsibilities?

Katie: I don’t know, sometimes poorly? Does being a woman mean that I’m more responsible than a man? 

John: This is a dude test fail, I’d never ask “As a man…” asking this is presuming it’s more difficult for a woman to manage her responsibilities.

As a woman, how do you juggle working and having a family?

Katie: Same as above, sometimes poorly? There are stereotypes that women are the primary caregivers in the family and that they have made sacrifices in their careers to have both. While this may be true, it is 100% outdated to assume that only women take care of the family and make sacrifices. Men do too and rarely get asked about it. 

John: Yeah, this is dangerous to assume, but at least it’s not a complete dude test fail, if you knew a guy was an entrepreneur and single parent with two kids, you could ask “How do you juggle that?”

As a woman, do you feel like you had to put having a family on hold in order to have a career?

Katie: This is a BOLD assumption about my choices. I don’t dig into my personal life on interviews other than surface-level information. I’m very private and you could be stepping on a painful landmine but asking questions like this, especially if the interviewee doesn’t know it’s coming. 

John: Yeah, and this goes up higher to “Do the homework.” Your interview prep should be thorough enough that you’re not going to step on landmines like family, religion, politics.

Other considerations: 

  • Don’t talk about a woman’s appearance unless it is LITERALLY the topic of the podcast (fashion, modeling, etc). 
  • Don’t call women “lady marketers” otherwise we’ll be forced to refer to you as a “gentleman podcaster” – it gets awkward. I’m a marketer. And you, sir, are no gentleman. 
  • Don’t assume that because your guest is a woman she has a horrible story about being a woman, and that she wants to share it with you. Let’s be honest – most of us have terrible stories, and many of us want to share those stories. But again, on our terms. To that, if you’re going in expecting to be the one to uncover the “tragedy” you’re already doing it wrong. You’re assuming that a) there is one and b) we want to tell you about it. You’re putting us in the position of “victim” and that’s not cool. Don’t do that. 

When in doubt – flip the question around to see if you’d ask a man the same question. If the answer is no, start rethinking your interview approach. 

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

 


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