In what’s now been taken down on LinkedIn but lives on forever on the internets, Toronto-based Vestra iNet posted the description for “Content Writer & SEO Specialist,” a position for which they’re hiring:
Perusing the description, it looks like the pretty standard SEO or content job at a web shop. Then you get to that last sentence: “Please note that the Position requires filling in the responsibilities of a receptionist, so female candidates are preferred.”
I’m not sure what troglodyte was allowed to even publish this post, but there are so many problems with it, crystallized in that final sentence. The blatant sexism is…well, blatant. But there are so many deeper problems than just face-value gender stereotypes.
As a reminder, this position is “Content Writer & SEO Specialist.” The ideal candidate has to be a strong writer and up to date on SEO. Those are both skills that are specific and valuable. On top of that, though, the candidate’s ability to speak Russian is a plus. SEO is, arguably, a language. Russian is definitely a language. The ideal candidate is trilingual.
But forget about how knowledgeable you are about SEO, or Russian, or content writing. Because in addition to those tasks, you’re also going to be blessed with receptionist duties. Therefore men shouldn’t bother applying, because keeping an office organized is for women. As is learning multiple languages, conversing with clients, writing posts, and all the other roles befitting of a “Content Writer & SEO Specialist.”
Vestra iNet isn’t just devaluing women in this post. They’re also devaluing SEO specialists, writers, and administrative professionals, particularly the males in that industry.
Writing is a talent. Having your writers do double-duty as the front desk girl is not fully appreciating the value of your employee. Would you ever consider asking your accountant to sit at the front desk, because he/she is just sitting on his/her computer anyway? You wouldn’t, because that person is your accountant, not your admin.
Like women, creatives are expected to fluid in their work. Even if you speak multiple languages, write kick-ass copy, or make award-winning graphics, you should still lend your time to “real” work, like answering phones or reordering K-cups.
Audienti is a lean startup with a small but fierce corps of entrepreneurs. We all wear multiple hats. Some days, I’ve had to do every task mentioned in this job description, including the admin work (minus the Russian). Some days, our Development Director Jay, a male, has to do the admin work. Jay takes notes because his handwriting’s better than mine, and I replace the 40-pound water jug because I’ve finally mastered the splashless replacement. We assign task by ability, not gender.
Vestra iNet’s job posting fully captures the struggle many women feel in the workplace, particularly in tech. They have to be smart–multilingual, savvy on the ever-changing social media front, and work well with clients–but they still have to work the front desk because that’s what girls do. The post also captures the plight of writers and creatives in an office environment: they have to produce, but still have to make themselves useful with the “real” stuff like keeping the address book updated.
To be simply an educated woman or simply a good writer is not enough. Unless you can order the office cake for the CEO’s birthday lunch, you’re just not the ideal candidate as a Content Writer & SEO Specialist.