It's no secret that being a woman in tech comes with its discriminatory disadvantages, but a new report from the Human Rights Watch reveals that in China, recruiting tactics are troublingly sexist. According to the 99-page report published on Monday, Chinese tech companies including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu openly discriminate in job ads, noting that they prefer male candidates while objectifying female employees as a way to lure men to the company.
The report, "Only Men Need Apply": Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China, looked at more than 36,000 job ads posted from 2013 to 2018 on Chinese recruitment and company websites as well as on social media. The study included job postings for China's civil service.
According to Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson, almost one out of every five job ads for the country's civil service this year indicated a preference for male candidates or flat out said the jobs were for men only. Other ads specified that candidates would have "beautiful girls" as colleagues.
"Chinese authorities need to act now to enforce existing laws to end government and private hiring practices that blatantly discriminate against women," Richardson said.
Of China's 2017 national civil service job list, 13 per cent of the ads stated that they were "men only", "men preferred" or "suitable for men," compared to 19 per cent so far in 2018. No job ads specified preferences for women in 2017, and only one did this year. In March of last year, for instance, a Baidu job ad for a content reviewer specified that candidates needed to be men and have a "strong ability to work under pressure, able to work on weekends, holidays and night shifts," according to the report.
Aside from job postings that openly stated their preference for male candidates, more egregious ads pointed out the physical traits of female employees in order to entice men to apply for jobs at the company.
Alibaba has recently posted job ads that boasted about the "beautiful girls" or "goddesses" at the company, according to the report. The company has also posted photos of young female employees on its recruitment social media account late at night, characterising the women as "late night benefits," said the Human Rights Watch.
On Tencent's recruitment WeChat account, the company included an article from October 2016 that quoted a male employee saying that the reason he joined the company "originated from a primal impulse. It was mainly because the ladies at human resources and that interviewed me were very pretty." In a 2016 job posting on Baidu's recruitment WeChat account, the company noted its "pretty front desk girls" and "strong security men" among reasons to apply to the company.
While it's against China's labour and advertising laws to discriminate by gender in recruitment, the Human Rights Watch notes that the laws don't provide clear definitions on what exactly qualifies as gender discrimination.
The group also says there aren't many known ways to enforce such violations in the country. According to the press release, the primary agencies tasked with enforcing such discrimination "rarely proactively investigate companies that violate relevant laws, and their responses to complaints filed by women's rights activists are irregular and inconsistent".