China has a big sexism problem in tech

The way that women are treated in tech has been a particularly pressing topic in the west over the past few years, but a new report reveals the problem to be even bigger in China.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), major tech firms such as Baidu and Alibaba have been advertising jobs for ‘men only’ in a gross example of the industry’s misogynistic culture. 

"Major companies like Alibaba have published recruitment ads promising applicants ‘beautiful girls’ as co-workers," said HRW China director Sophie Richardson. The 99-page report goes on to claim that Chinese authorities have not been enforcing laws that prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace. 

In making the report, HRW analysed 36,000 ads posted on Chinese job sites over the last five years. A lot of the ads blatantly state a preference for men, while others have certain requirements for women such as height, weight or being ‘married with children’.

In recent years, technology companies, such as Tencent (which has a 93 per cent share in League of Legends developer Riot Games), Baidu, and Alibaba, have repeatedly published recruitment ads boasting that there are “beautiful girls” (美女) or “goddesses” (女神) working at the company. The report goes on to say that a "Tencent male employee is featured stating this is the primary reason he joined Tencent and a Baidu male employee saying it is one reason why he is “so happy every day” at work."

And this isn’t something the firm shies away from. On its official WeChat recruitment account, Tencent quoted a male worker as saying "the reason I 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 statement to Bloomberg, Tencent that "we are sorry [the ads] occurred and we will take swift action to ensure they do not happen again. Tencent values diverse backgrounds and recruits staff based on talent and ability." 

Likewise, Baidu, which also posted misogynistic listings, said that the posts were ‘isolated instances’ and that it deeply regretted the postings.

But it doesn’t stop with the tech companies. The government is not only failing to enforce, but is actively acting against the law. 13 per cent of civil service job listings in 2017 specified ‘men only’ or ‘men preferred’, while none required or preferred women.

HRW says that this is partly down to "traditional and deeply discriminatory views" that are often held in corporations. Another contributing factor is that anti-sexual abuse activists have faced hostility from the Chinese government. The #MeToo movement, for example, was censored across social media.

Richardson concluded that ‘instead of harassing and jailing women’s rights activists, the Chinese government should engage them as allies in combating gender discrimination in the job market – and beyond’.

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