(CNN) — When Zhou Yuxia, 24, returned to Beijing after studying in the United States, she had real trouble securing a job. She had the right qualifications for the positions she was looking for — she just wasn’t a man.
“I was on a job hunting site and saw this ideal position as a marketing manager. One of the requirements was that I had to be male,” she told CNN.
“If I am desperate I will apply anyway because I think I am qualified. But I’ll send them an extra video outlining why I can do the job despite being female.”
This happened a fortnight ago, just weeks after a similar gender discrimination case made headlines in China. Recent graduate Cao Ju took Beijing-based private tutor company Juren Academy to court after they refused to employ her on the basis of being female. The companylater settled for 30,000 RMB (US$4,925), in what has been described as the first gender discrimination lawsuit of its kind in the China.
Geoff Crothall from China Labour Bulletin, an NGO that promotes the rights of workers in China, described the Beijing case as “an important breakthrough.” He says he expects more women to actively challenge discrimination moving forward but cautioned against being too optimistic.
“It is very difficult to get courts in China to accept discrimination cases, as Cao Ju herself experienced,” Crothall told CNN.”Very often employers blatantly discriminate because demand for a particular job is very high and they can get away with setting strict and discriminatory stipulations.”
Wang Xiao, 28, knows a thing or two about this. Upon graduating from a top Beijing university, she spent a year working as a headhunter. There she was approached by clients who specified only male candidates. Factory-based jobs and those within engineering were two professions commonly demanding male applicants, as were roles that involved travel or working overseas.
“There’s a perception that (travel) to certain countries is not safe for women, and also that if a woman is older her priorities will be more home-based, whereas the man’s will still be work first,” she said.
Wang experienced discrimination herself upon changing jobs. She was working as a teacher’s assistant at a well-established tutorial company in Beijing and when her boss left, he referred Wang to the director as the best person to fill his role. The director, though, wanted a man. Wang lost out to someone more junior than her.
“At my company the high-level positions were usually filled by men,” she noted.
These anecdotes are commonplace. Data in the Third Chinese Women’s Social Status Investigation, jointly carried out in 2010 by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and the National Bureau of Statistics of China, revealed that more than 72% of women had a clear perception of “not being hired or promoted because of gender” discrimination.
Over 75% believed they were dismissed due to marriage and childbirth, with fears that this could worsen as China relaxes its one-child policy. Meanwhile, the federation calculated that urban Chinese women in 2010 earned 0.67 RMB for every 1 RMB men earned, down from 0.78 RMB in 1990.