How gen­der bias ap­pears in job ads

The Prince George Citizen - - Worklife - Amy STILL­MAN and Jeff GREEN

Few multi­na­tional com­pa­nies would pub­licly ad­ver­tise some U.S.-based jobs to women and oth­ers to men. In Mex­ico, though, some have listed gen­der pref­er­ence right along­side qual­i­fi­ca­tions like “ed­u­ca­tion” and “ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of sex is il­le­gal in both coun­tries, but in Mex­ico, it re­mains a reg­u­larand open-prac­tice. Ac­cord­ing to a Bloomberg anal­y­sis of more than 10,300 job ads posted dur­ing one week in Au­gust on the pop­u­lar Mex­i­can job site OCCMun­dial, more than 800 spec­i­fied male or fe­male ap­pli­cants.

Most were for lo­cal firms, but not all. Staffing giants Kelly Ser­vices, Adecco and Man­power des­ig­nated some of their Mex­i­cobased post­ings for men or for women. Home De­pot Inc. was re­cruit­ing male sales as­so­ci­ates. VF Out­door Ser­vices sought a woman with “ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion” and “emo­tional in­tel­li­gence” for an ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant role. Sev­eral lo­cal car deal­er­ships did the same, along with Hyundai Glo­vis, a lo­gis­tics sub­sidiary of the Korean car com­pany.

The data ex­am­ined by Bloomberg showed that, over­all, ads tar­geted men for more se­nior or man­age­rial po­si­tions. Women were re­cruited for sec­re­tar­ial and cus­tomer ser­vice roles. Job ads seek­ing men also of­fered higher salaries than open­ings for the same po­si­tion but a pref­er­ence for women.

Those com­pa­nies say the ads Bloomberg found aren’t con­sis­tent with their poli­cies or prac­tice and have been fixed. None­the­less, they il­lus­trate the chal­lenge of con­nect­ing com­pany rhetoric with on-the-ground op­er­a­tions around the world. In Au­gust, Home De­pot joined nearly 200 com­pa­nies in sign­ing a let­ter from the Busi­ness Roundtable that promised to foster “dig­nity and in­clu­sion” in their op­er­a­tions. On its web­site, VF Cor­po­ra­tion touts its “Global Women’s Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil” and its prom­ise to achieve gen­der par­ity in its se­nior lead­er­ship by 2030.

“This was an over­sight for sev­eral job post­ings by stores in Mex­ico,” a Home De­pot spokesper­son said in an email. “The job post­ings have been cor­rected and this has been ad­dressed with the stores that posted them. Home De­pot does not dis­crim­i­nate in hir­ing prac­tice and is al­ways look­ing for the best tal­ent for the spe­cific po­si­tion.”

Hyundai Glo­vis said the job ads re­flected an er­ror made by a new em­ployee. “The part about gen­der was deleted im­me­di­ately, the HR staff will be trained in com­pany pol­icy and law, and HR hir­ing pro­cesses will be strength­ened,” the com­pany said in a state­ment. “Hyundai GLO­VIS Mex­ico does not dis­crim­i­nate on gen­der-re­lated acts when hir­ing em­ploy­ees.”

“Un­for­tu­nately, a small per­cent­age of job post­ings in Mex­ico that did not re­flect our com­mit­ment to di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion were brought to our at­ten­tion and we have taken im­me­di­ate ac­tion to cor­rect these,” a spokesman for Man­power said in an email. “We con­tinue to re­view job posts on an on­go­ing ba­sis to en­sure they re­flect our po­si­tion on di­ver­sity and our com­mit­ment to equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Kelly Ser­vices said its re­cruiters in Mex­ico are trained and in­formed on com­pli­ant and eth­i­cal em­ploy­ment prac­tices in the re­gions where they op­er­ate, and that the com­pany “now will place post­ings to re­cruit in­di­vid­u­als who are most qual­i­fied for the job du­ties at hand, with­out re­gard to im­mutable per­sonal at­tributes.” Ad­deco said that in Mex­ico, it has poli­cies to pre­vent any men­tion of gen­der in a job post­ing “un­less there is a le­git­i­mate rea­son,” and that it was look­ing into the job ads flagged by Bloomberg.VF Corp., par­ent of VF Out­door Ser­vices, along with brands like Vans, The North Face and JanS­port, didn’t re­turn sev­eral emails and phone calls seek­ing com­ment.”Global com­pa­nies should make sure that any stan­dards they say they’re hold­ing them­selves to are ob­served the world over,” said John Paul Rollert, a be­havioural science pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Chicago Booth School of Busi­ness and “in-house ethi­cist” at the Chicago Booth Re­view. “If they’re not, peo­ple will find out and they’ll be held to ac­count.”

OCCMun­dial is owned by SEEK Ltd., a $4.8 bil­lion tech com­pany based in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, that owns and op­er­ates job sites around the world. Ser­gio Por­ra­gas Moreno, OCCMun­dial’s Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, said the site’s terms and con­di­tions for­bid dis­crim­i­na­tion in job post­ings, and the site re­tains the right to re­move any post deemed “il­le­gal or abu­sive” fol­low­ing a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It’s a form of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion that’s un­for­tu­nately very com­mon in the coun­try,” said Gon­zalo Sanchez de Ta­gle, a con­sti­tu­tional lawyer and au­thor of the new book, “The Po­lit­i­cal Con­sti­tu­tion of Mex­ico City.” “It’s 100 per cent il­le­gal, but a lot of la­bor rights vi­o­la­tions go un­no­ticed or un­re­ported.”

Us­ing data cap­tured by a Quare­taro, Mex­ico, firm, Bloomberg an­a­lyzed 10,334 job ads in Mex­ico City, the State of Mex­ico, Nuevo Leon, Jalisco and Gua­na­ju­ato-the coun­try’s main eco­nomic hub­sover about a week in Au­gust. The data cap­tured open­ings in some of the coun­try’s big­gest and fastest grow­ing in­dus­tries: lo­gis­tics, sales, ad­min­is­tra­tion, en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

More than 800 post­ings spec­i­fied a gen­der pref­er­ence, more of­ten for men than for women. Ad­min­is­tra­tive jobs, mostly for re­cep­tion­ists, sec­re­taries and as­sis­tants, ac­counted for al­most half of all the open­ings seek­ing women. Sales jobs, in­clud­ing cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives and cashiers, rep­re­sented 38 per cent.

By con­trast, nearly one-third of the list­ings seek­ing men were for driv­ers, fork­lift op­er­a­tors, store­keep­ers or other lo­gis­tics po­si­tions. Another 28 per cent were for man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, in­clud­ing su­per­vi­sors, tech­ni­cians and in­spec­tors.

Sales ac­counted for just 12 per cent of the open­ings seek­ing men, but un­like the sales po­si­tions seek­ing women, they were more likely to be for man­age­ment jobs or other, more se­nior ti­tles.

Among open en­gi­neer­ing jobs, 82 per cent were gen­der neu­tral. But 15 per cent spec­i­fied a pref­er­ence for male ap­pli­cants; just three per cent tar­geted women.

“There’s grow­ing aware­ness over these is­sues, but there’s still a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work cul­ture in Mex­ico,” said Alexan­dra Haas, pres­i­dent of Mex­ico’s Na­tional Coun­cil to Pre­vent Dis­crim­i­na­tion, or Con­apred.

More than 40 coun­tries still al­low gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in hir­ing. Another 50 place at least some re­stric­tions on women’s work, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank.

Where dis­crim­i­na­tion is il­le­gal across the board-in Mex­ico, the U.S. and else­where-it’s still com­mon, just more sub­tle, Haas said. In sev­eral lan­guages, in­clud­ing Span­ish, job ti­tles can be specif­i­cally mas­cu­line or fem­i­nine-re­cep­cionista, for ex­am­ple, or as Deloitte spec­i­fied in a March ad, asis­tente ejec­u­tiva. (Deloitte didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.) Em­ploy­ers in Mex­ico can re­quest a photo with a job ap­pli­ca­tion, another way to screen for gen­der, race or sim­ply ap­pear­ance.

In most in­dus­tries, there’s a deep im­bal­ance, with fields dom­i­nated by men or by women; so-called women’s work also pays a lot less, said Rita Ra­malho, re­searcher for a World Bank study on women’s rights across 187 coun­tries. This dy­namic re­in­forces the gen­der pay gap, she said. “It’s not only that less women are ac­tu­ally work­ing, but when they do work, they are more likely to earn less than men.”

The ads on OCCMun­dial re­flected a stark pay gap. Co­or­di­na­tor jobs that specif­i­cally asked for men listed salaries that were on av­er­age 26 per cent higher than what was of­fered in the ads ask­ing for women.

For man­agers and man­ager as­sis­tants, male-spe­cific jobs of­fered 11 per cent more than those that were spe­cific to women.

The gen­der pay gap and dis­crim­i­na­tion in hir­ing have be­come hot-but­ton is­sues among the global eco­nomic elite in re­cent years, in part be­cause the full eco­nomic en­fran­chise­ment of women is good for over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity. Clos­ing the global gen­der pay gap would add $32 tril­lion to global GDP, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent es­ti­mate from the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum.

In­vestors, em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers have been pres­sur­ing com­pa­nies to ad­dress gen­der bi­ases and pro­mote di­ver­sity. The #MeToo move­ment forced ex­ec­u­tives to re­think their own be­hav­ior. Black­Rock Inc., State Street Global In­vestors and other large funds are de­mand­ing di­ver­sity at the board level, and many pen­sion funds are push­ing for more dis­clo­sure and di­ver­sity among top ex­ec­u­tives.

Even in coun­tries where dis­crim­i­na­tion is le­gal or even tol­er­ated, U.S. com­pa­nies are eth­i­cally re­spon­si­ble for fol­low­ing their own best prac­tices on gen­der equal­ity, said Kab­rina Chang, busi­ness ethics and law pro­fes­sor at Bos­ton Univer­sity. The job ads in Mex­ico are “an ex­am­ple of us­ing an out­dated, un­sub­stan­ti­ated stereo­type to deny women equal op­por­tu­nity,” she said. “No mat­ter where that hap­pens, it’s not good for women.”


Com­pa­nies are look­ing for the best can­di­dates to fill va­cant po­si­tions but still show a bias towards men when post­ing for the job.

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