Sexist job ads discriminate against women in China — even specifying applicants’ required height, weight, and facial structure.
Job ads in China openly discriminate against women, regularly stating employers’ preference for male applicants.
Some ads list a preference for men, others try to lure male applicants by describing the attractiveness of future female co-workers, while many more place unfair and unequal demands on women applicants.
Analysing more than 36,000 job ads from the last five years,Human Rights Watch released a new report on Monday detailing the extent of discriminatory job ads in China.
“Nearly one in five job ads for China’s 2018 national civil service called for ‘men only’ or ‘men preferred,’ while major companies like Alibaba have published recruitment ads promising applicants ‘beautiful girls’ as co-workers,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said.
In the past, Alibaba has repeatedly advertised “beautiful girls” or “goddesses” that work for the company in its job ads, and described them as “late night benefits.”
But even in January this year, Alibaba advertised three roles primarily for men. An ad for a government affairs senior specialist stated “men preferred,” as did an ad for restaurant operations support, while the ad for a crowd-sourcing delivery manager said “men only.”
Last year, advertisements for feed reviewers at Baidu, who were likely being hired for censorship-related work, listed “men” alongside other job requirements such as an associate’s degree. In 2016, a job ad for the company’s filming program manager job ad stated the role required “strong logical reasoning ability, effective execution skills … men and manly women [need apply].”
In response to the new report, Baidu told AFP its the job ads have been removed while Alibaba said it would conduct “stricter reviews” of its ads going forwards but the ads referred to in the report were outdated.
“Sexist job ads pander to the antiquated stereotypes that persist within Chinese companies,” Richardson said. “These companies pride themselves on being forces of modernity and progress, yet they fall back on such recruitment strategies, which shows how deeply entrenched discrimination against women remains in China.”
Performance by government departments were no better
Out of all national civil service jobs that were reviewed so far this year, 19% included the terms “men only,” “men preferred,” or “suitable for men.” There was just one instance of a job ad that required the applicant to be a woman.
Last year, 55% of jobs advertised by the Ministry of Public Security specified “men only.”
These ads typically state working conditions such as “frequent overtime,” “heavy workload,” and “frequent travel” that appear to be the reason for excluding women. One ad in the ministry’s news department listed “need to work overtime frequently, high intensity work, only men need apply.”
One job ad site has attempted to stop the sexist ads by banning gender discrimination phrases, but there are easy workarounds. Human Rights Watch found numerous uses of Chinese characters that sound like “man,” use a Romanized version, or swap “man” out for other colloquial terms.
Sexist job ads in China are not a recent problem.
Research from 2013 found gender-targeted ads are common in China, and that an employer’s preference for a women workers is often related to their age, height and beauty rather than skill.
There are often gender-specific criteria for women hires
If organisations do try to hire women, Human Rights Watch found employers often add in strict, gender-specific criteria regarding appearance, marital status, motherhood, or even alter educational requirements.
In Shaanxi province, researchers found the actual job title for female train conductors was “fashionable and beautiful high-speed train conductors.”
Another ad for train conductors in Hebei required women to weigh “below 65 kilograms,” be between “162 centimeters to 173 centimeters” tall, and have “normal facial features, no tattoos, no obvious scars on face, neck or arms, good skin tone, no incurable skin conditions.”
At Alibaba, the sole job available in January that included the Chinese character for “woman” required the applicant to “possess fine personal image.”
Other ads appear to indicate employers would prefer to avoid the hassle of maternity leave, particularly under China’s new two-child policy.
One job ad listed “[Applicants must be] women married with children or men.” Another, for a senior manager position at an internet company, required a “female, married with children, excellent image and temperament.”
Even Beijing court assistants, who were required to be female, needed to have “proper looks.”
In a number of instances women were able to apply for jobs only if they had higher qualifications than their male counterparts. In one city looking to hire management assistants, 47 positions were open to men who had high school diplomas. Two of the three same positions open to women required an associate’s degree.
China is still battling gender inequality
When China ended its one-child policy, state media declared women could now return to the home in order to “better raise children.”
This belief closely aligns with what appears to be the state’s desire for women to marry and remain in the home. In 2015, Beijing’s office of marriage registration caused an uproar when one of its posters saying: “Being a good wife and good mother is the biggest achievement of a woman,” began circulating online.
When measured for gender equality, China ranks 100 out of 144 countries.
By TARA FRANCIS CHAN