China's Tech Giants Respond to Gender Disparity Allegations

Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent were among the firms the Human Rights Watch alleged had used unfair hiring practices, bringing the companies' and world's focus to the issue.

Anna Vodopyanova
    Apr 24, 2018 4:08 PM  PT
China's Tech Giants Respond to Gender Disparity Allegations
author: Anna Vodopyanova   

The Human Rights Watch raised a concern about increased gender discrimination in employment practices of certain top Chinese firms, causing some to react with promises of improvement.

In a report released on Monday, the group alleged certain major Chinese tech companies, including Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq: BIDU), Tencent Holdings Ltd., and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA), posted hiring ads, which contained language such as "men only."

The report also said some recruitment ads lured male candidates by saying "goddesses" were working there, and included photos of female employees, where they were described as "late-night benefits."

Other job postings, the report noted, called for women candidates, but required applicants to have a specific appearance, or marital status.

Chinese laws prohibited gender discrimination in hiring, but failed to enforce the measures, and even government ads often ask for male applicants, the report said. As an example, 55 percent of jobs advertised by the Ministry of Public Security in 2017 specified only men need apply. No women held leading positions at the Party Congress concluded in October.

Data showed the situation has only worsened for the female labor force in China in the last ten years. In 2017, 63 percent of women were employed, 3 percent less than in 2007. Additionally, the pay gap in the cities has widened, said the Human Rights group.

According to last year's report by the World Economic Forum, China fell to 100th position out of 144 countries ranked on gender parity. By comparison, in 2008, the country had ranked in 57th place.

The results "reflect traditional and deeply discriminatory views" on women's roles and capabilities in China's culture, the report said. Another factor driving gender discrimination, mentioned in the report, is a lack of male employees in certain areas, like teaching.

"We have investigated these incidents and are making immediate changes. We are sorry they occurred, and we will take swift action to ensure they do not happen again," Tencent said in a statement.

An Alibaba spokeswoman said the company "will conduct stricter reviews of the recruiting advertisements to ensure compliance with our policy."

A Baidu spokeswoman said the discriminatory postings were "isolated instances."

(Reuters contributed to this article)