LinkedIn, the job social networking site, has found itself at the center of a sexism storm after it pulled down ad posts of a woman they deemed too attractive to be a real-life web-engineer.
The controversy began when developer networking platform Toptal posted a series of advertisements onto LinkedIn aimed at the web-engineering sector.
However, LinkedIn quickly disabled the ads with no explanation and requested images ‘related to the product’, which caused a furious response from Toptal’s CEO.
‘The fact of the matter is: members of the tech community (LinkedIn users) saw it as impossible that our female engineers could actually be engineers, and a leader of the tech community (LinkedIn) agreed with them,’ wrote Toptal’s CEO, Taso Du Val in a blog post according to The Daily Dot.
‘Unfortunately we’re banned from showing anything except 100 percent, all make software advertisements from now on and so, that’s what you’ll be getting.’
At first, Toptal had simply sent the same advertisements back to LinkedIn, including that of Argentinian web developer Florencia Antara, but LinkedIn barred them until they had made the necessary changes.
‘Today was a disappointing day at Toptal. We saw extreme sexism within the tech community, from an industry leader and advertising partner that we work with quite extensively: LinkedIn,’ wrote Du Val in a post entitled ‘In Defence of Female Engineers.’
In response, a spokesperson for LinkedIn, which bills itself as the ‘World’s Largest Professional Network’, said the ads were rejected in a mistake caused by a review at their customer service team.
‘We have taken the necessary measures to approve the previously rejected ads, and TopTal can now run them on our platform as intended,’ they said.
However, the initial decision by LinkedIn provoked a furious response from readers of Du Val’s blog.
‘LinkedIn appears to be engaging in slut-shaming and nerd oppression because no female engineer could look good. Engineers must be slide rule nerds,’ wrote one reader in support of Du Val.
However, the issue became complicated when it was pointed out that Toptal did not use actual images of every engineer they were advertising.
They used a mixture of stock photography and the real pictures of software engineers with portfolios on their website – including a picture of actress Amanda Schull, who appears in the USA Network television drama series ‘Suits’.
In the immediate aftermath of the sexism controversy, Toptal deleted this profile online and were unrepentant in their defense.
‘And even if they were only stock photography, who cares?’ wrote Du Val. ‘The point is, they’re perfectly fine and represent normal professional people.’
Once the profile using Schull’s image was removed, the only remaining example of a woman in Toptal’s advertisements was Argentinian Antara.
‘Florencia Antara is 100 percent authentic,’ said Du Val, pointing out the picture used in her ad was from her own profile.
Regardless, many commentators were sided with LinkedIn, despite criticizing the web giant for blocking the ads.
Some said that the issue was more of false representation by Toptal and pointed out that the ads gave off a ‘spam’ vibe.
‘Imagine if someone saw this ad while looking over your shoulder, didn’t look very closely, and all they saw was a pretty face and ‘$1800-2800/wk,’ commented on blog posting.
Indeed, some felt that the images were simply to overt, even if they were the true representative of Antara.
‘What’s with the bra strap showing? How does that help emphasize her abilities as a developer?’ said Macman 851.
‘Why is she staring at the camera as if she is about to make love to it?
‘The images are a bit suggestive and I would like to kindly turn the tables and ask you why you felt you needed to portray these women in such a sexually suggestive light than a professional light.’
Another wrote: ‘I don’t think it’s the fact that the women are intrinsically attractive, but rather the fact that they’re consciously choosing the pose/makeup/lighting in order the emulate the design language of the adultFriendFinder-style ads … The fact that most of the copy could apply equally well to sex trafficking doesn’t help much either.’
Ultimately, even though Du Val was satisfied that the advertisements, bar Amandad Schull’s picture profile were readmitted, he felt it did not explain the original decision by LinkedIn to remove the ads only with the women.