Facebook is a target of choice for the non-profit organization ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and has faced numerous actions in the past. ACLU has a new reason to go after Facebook and this one does bring back some old and nasty memories of gender discrimination at work.
Equal Employment Opportunity
In the USA, as in many other countries, one cannot discriminate against potential employees by gender. It used to be the case, several decades ago, when women could not apply for some jobs. The classified listings for jobs were even separated into two categories: Men jobs and Women jobs. Quite thankfully, we have gone past this although discrimination remains in a more subtle way.
Facebook brings back the dual listing… in a way
Facebook ads are a marketer’s dream. Rather than spend (waste?) money on people who will not buy your product, one can now target with extreme precision those who will see the ad. No more trying to sell sanitary pads to gentlemen.
This is the logical use.
However, Facebook ads aren’t always used to sell products. They can also serve as job announcements. But the targeting options remain the same. If you can target married individuals that visit swinger groups to promote legal advice on divorce (yes, Facebook lets you do that), you can also become a bit too picky when it comes to targeting future employees.
This is what ACLU discovered with several ads targetted solely at men. Meaning women (or non-binary people) would never have known of these job openings. These jobs include positions usually tagged as “male jobs” such as construction work, auto repair, or moving jobs. But also positions such as software developers or salesperson.
Limiting job accessibility for non-males
It is disturbing to see informal gendered positions not opening up to a more diverse workforce. ACLU also notes the jobs are in “well paid, blue-collar fields from which women have traditionally been excluded“.
Such conduct also drives non-males out of the job application process altogether.
These ads were linked to listings which hosted other job opportunities. Non-males were not directed to them either thus reinforcing the company’s sex-based preferences whichever the position.
Who’s fault is it? Facebook’s, the company’s… or the user’s?
The blame is not so easy to cast. Facebook attracted the wrath of ACLU for providing a framework that allows such targeting. That’s a fact and that’s what brings the cash to Mark Zuckerberg’s company at the end of the day.
The company’s fault? Sure, they’re the ones choosing to target males only to support their own gender preferences.
But how can it be the user’s responsibility?
All users, by their behavior on the social network (what they like, who they like, what they post…) fuel Facebook with valuable data that is then used for targeting. In the interest of the user… or against.