A Canadian web design company is attracting internet ire for a sexist job description that says female applicants are preferred because the job involves receptionist duties.
The job posting is for a "Content Writer/SEO Specialist" at Vestra Inet in Concord, Ontario, outside of Toronto. The substance of the position looks like anything but a receptionist job — writing and consulting on website content, communicating with clients, updating existing content to improve search engine optimization (SEO).
But one line at the bottom of the post reads: "Please note that the position requires filling in the responsibilities of a receptionist, so female candidates are preferred."
It's not uncommon to see job listings in countries like India that specifically call for a female receptionist, or even request particular physical attributes like "clear skin" that will make candidates more attractive to customers. In Ontario, however, this isn't exactly legal. Ontario law prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, including job applications and recruitment. The Ontario Human Rights Code "protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women 'should' behave, dress, or interact."
It's hard to get more stereotypical than suggesting women are naturally better suited to be receptionists.
Predictably, Vestra Inet's LinkedIn page is accumulating outraged remarks from users, including several who point out that the posting is probably illegal.
"It's unbelievable that you think that this is okay to post. I can't imagine what your work environment must be like for women," wrote communications professional Samantha Kemp-Jackson.
A Vestra Inet employee declined Vox's request for comment.
Ironically, there's a good argument to be made that tech companies need to hire more women for SEO jobs just like this one. Technology is a heavily male-dominated industry, and marketing specialist Pam Aungst writes that search engine optimization and marketing in particular seem to be "some of the more intensely male-dominated sectors of the digital marketing industry to work in."
Of course, calling for women to apply for a tech position because the job also involves receptionist duties, and not because you value the specific contributions women could make to a diverse workforce, is going at the hiring diversity problem exactly backward.
Update: Vestra Inet has issued an apology. If the LinkedIn comments on it are any guide, those outraged by the original posting found it to be pretty weaksauce:
We would like to address the attention and comments that we have been receiving after our company posted an advertisement on LinkedIn for the position of “Content Writer & SEO Specialist” with receptionist responsibilities. Several individuals have found the wording of the ad to be offensive, and we want to assure everyone that we did not mean to discriminate against any particular gender or group. Vestra Inet is a company that believes in promoting diversity. Our staff currently consists of employees of various genders and ethnicities. Above all, Vestra Inet values knowledge and talent.