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Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu under fire for “men-only” job ads

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Chinese tech giants including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have all been cited in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on gender discrimination for its job advertisements.

The report titled “Only Men Need Apply: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China“, analysed over 36,000 job advertisements posted between 2013 and 2018 on Chinese recruitment and company websites and on social media platforms. It details a host of offences by private companies and public bodies, from issuing “men only” job ads to requests for women applicants to be “trim” and “aesthetically pleasing,” Others said the report, use the physical attributes of companies’ current female employees to attract male applicants.

“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,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch in an article on its website. “Chinese authorities need to act now to enforce existing laws to end government and private hiring practices that blatantly discriminate against women.”

Even though this kind of discrimination is illegal in China rules are rarely enforced the report said.  “The main enforcement agencies – local bureaus of human resources and social security and bureaus of industry and commerce – rarely proactively investigate companies that violate relevant laws, and their responses to complaints filed by women’s rights activists are irregular and inconsistent. Often, the bureaus only ordered companies publishing gender discriminatory ads to remove or change the ads. On rare occasions, companies were fined.”

Sexual objectification of women in job advertising is common too, for example, an ad for train conductors in Shaanxi province had the job titled “fashionable and beautiful high-speed train conductors.” And, in recent years, Alibaba has repeatedly published recruitment ads boasting that there are “beautiful girls” or “goddesses” working for the company.

“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.”

Alibaba hit back at the report in a statement to the AFP, saying its recruitment policies provided equal opportunity regardless of gender, noting that 47% of employees are women and one-third of its founders and people in management positions are also women. However, it added that it would “conduct stricter reviews” of recruitment ads to ensure they complied with its policy of equality.

An Alibaba staffer told AFP the HRW report referred to “outdated” adverts from 2012 to 2015 and that the company immediately takes down adverts that violate internal regulations against discrimination.

Baidu said the job ads in question had been removed before the release of the report and that it regretted any adverts that did not reflect its values. “These job postings… were isolated instances that in no way reflect our company’s dedication to workplace equality,” a Baidu spokesperson told AFP.

Tencent and Huawei did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

Video / Human Rights Watch

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