September 10, 2019

Gender bias in job ads – an issue for multinational companies

Gender bias in job ads – an issue for multinational companies

In Mexico discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal but it remains common practice as some multinational companies list gender preference alongside their requirements for education and experience. A Bloomberg analysis of over 10,300 job ads posted in one week last month on the Mexican job site OCCMundial, more than 800 of those stated whether they wanted male or female applicants. Whilst some were local firms, big companies like Kelly Services, Adecco and Manpower were also amongst those who expressed gender bias in their job descriptions. Hyundai Glovis, a logistics subsidiary of the Korean car company, was also in that list of companies. The data also revealed that, overall, men were preferred for more senior or managerial positions and male candidates were also offered higher salaries compared to openings for similar positions but looking for female candidates. Women, on the other hand, were to fill secretarial and customer service positions.

IZA World of Labor author Marie-Anne Valfort is of the opinion that a mix of policies could be the solution to reducing discrimination in the labor market. In her article, she notes: “Combating discrimination requires combining the strengths of a range of anti-discrimination policies while also addressing their weaknesses. In particular, policymakers should thoroughly address prejudice (taste-based discrimination), stereotypes (statistical discrimination), cognitive biases, and attention-based discrimination.”

Home Depot, for example was found to be recruiting male sales associates. In an email, a spokesperson for the company responded: “This was an oversight for several job postings by stores in Mexico. 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.” The Mexico charter of Hyundai Glovis has also said that the company does not discriminate on the basis of gender when hiring employees. According to a company statement, the job descriptions contained errors made by a new employee.

“Global companies should make sure that any standards they say they’re holding themselves to are observed the world over. If they're not, people will find out and they’ll be held to account,” said John Paul Rollert, a behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and “in-house ethicist” at the Chicago Booth Review. Another way employers in Mexico can express bias on gender, race or appearance, is by requesting a photo with a job application. Nevertheless, the issue is not only prevalent in Mexico; more than 40 countries still allow gender discrimination in hiring and, according to the World Bank, another 50 place some form of restrictions on women’s work.  

Read Marie-Anne Valfort’s article Do anti-discrimination policies work?