LinkedIn removes ads for web developer because "women images" are offensive

Welcome to Silicon Valley, ladies!

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.

As many companies, we run LinkedIn advertisements to acquire new companies, clients, developers and internal employees. We run a mixture of male and female advertisements. We’ve taken extremely professional photos of both men and women who are part of the Toptal network and made sure they looked sharp, well dressed and happy; however, LinkedIn’s internal advertising’s staff completely disagrees that they both look sharp, well dressed and happy. Actually, they believe, with 100% certainty, that the women in our advertisements are offensive and harmful to their user base. To me, this is unbelievable. ...

Our COO went ahead and said we promise not to show any females in our advertisements and asked for a phone call. After we responded, we got the following:

“Hi [Toptal], Thank you for your confirmation. I went ahead and removed the restriction from your ads account. Please feel free to edit the ads and submit them again.

LinkedIn is an emulsifying agent between the business's meritocratic pretensions and the reality of its labor market. Think on the sort of people who use it enough to complain about the "women images" there. Imagine going to their parties! Imagine being privy to their inner lives. What do you expect from these people, Toptal? Advertise somewhere else.

Notable Replies

  1. As a woman engineer the example ad in their blog screams "porn ad" to me since the common style of ad for all those hot singles in your area looks exactly like that. I guess when I see ads for a job I don't expect to see fancy headshots of people, maybe the company's logo or something.

    That said, I wouldn't have banned the ad if I worked for LinkedIn. There is nothing actually wrong or offensive about it at all.

  2. I agree that the image in question doesn't really look like an ad for engineers and looks more like "hot singles in your area" as you say:

    The moment I say this, though, I'm immediately opening myself up to the criticism that I'm somehow suggesting that women, hot or not, shouldn't work as software developers. That's not what I'm saying at all.

    Rather, I just wonder whether the choice of headshots was directed more towards men who might notice the ads, rather than women who would be happy to see a female engineer in an ad.

    Since it looks like it's directed towards men, it seems like just another case of using pretty women to generate clicks, and so I can see some LinkedIn members thinking the ads are sexist.

  3. I read the longer post on the Toptal website, then the comments there. Curious to see the whole pool of employee profile pics that they had to choose from, I went poking around their website.

    None of the "top developers" shown in their banner are women. I clicked through every one of their sample developer profiles at the bottom of the page and none of them were women. I looked at their "Team" page, and no one on their team is female.

    I find it hard to believe that they are heroes fighting the good fight for women's inclusion and respect in the tech industry. I find it hard to believe that they chose to highlight the photos of certain female employees to celebrate the "diversity" of their team. Maybe as one commenter here says, they are using the profile photos of their female engineers to appeal to a male audience and not a female one. I suspect that's likely, unless they realize their diversity problem and are trying to attract women to eradicate it. Either way, they lucked out in getting banned from LinkedIn, and now they are using LinkedIn's response to make themselves out to appear heroic and feminist and generate links through blogs like this one,

  4. That is not just an image where the nice lady just looks "sharp, well-dressed, and happy". If they say she's an engineer that they've placed, fine. However, that woman is not dressed professionally--she's dressed like she's ready for a night on the town. It's a bit disingenuous to classify that picture as just another picture of a typical female engineer.

  5. Lion says:

    I know plenty of very good looking female engineers, I work with many of them.

    Unfortunately, if you look at toptal's website, or their linked in postings and members, THEY DON'T.

    Couple it with the fact that this ad mirrors that of one of those "Singles in your area" ads, and they've already been caught using stock photos on two other ads (as mentioned above), and frankly.. it's pretty obvious what's going on here.

    Yes , it's sexist to say that sexy women can't be geeks/good coders/etc.

    It's ALSO sexist to use pretty pictures of women to drive people to your website , and then claim it's all for diversity, when you have next to no actual women on your website.

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