Among employers seeking applicants for a wide range of jobs, in particular those seeking female applicants, requirements for appearance are common. Advertisements for employment in which physical appearance is not obviously relevant to the type of work—as may be true in entertainment or modeling—often list requirements for certain physical qualities.244 These requirements appear in advertisements at all levels, including managerial level positions. Because these qualifications are almost always found in vacancy announcements that also specify women applicants, they are discriminatory, having a disproportionate impact on women’s employment opportunities. In addition, advertisements specifying “attractive appearance,” as a criterion for employment create an arbitrary distinction that also affects treatment of employees. Advertising that emphasizes personal physical attributes over educational or professional qualifications suggests that a woman’s qualifications, but not a man’s, are in part or in whole determined by her physical attractiveness. Employers’ presumption that they may legitimately judge the attractiveness of female employees also contributes to an atmosphere in which women may be sexually harassed.
Employers in many different sectors list requirements for appearance. In wait staff and sales vacanciesfor women, often attractiveness is one of the few or only qualifications listed. In the “Bartenders, Wait Staff” section of the April 2003 edition of Proponuiu Robotu, one announcement reads, “Young woman server, cute, invited to work at a café-bar.”245 In another advertisement in the same section, an employer requests: “Waitress… work experience, under 25, attractive appearance, good manners.”246 Another employer seems to seek stereotypically female personality traits as well as a particular appearance in women applicants, specifying, “Waitresses, attractive appearance, under 30, without inhibitions, without work experience.”247 The sales center Roksolana advertises for sales consultants who are “responsible, active, communicative young women with attractive appearance, under 30 with higher education.”248 For employment in city center supermarkets, sales consultants must fit the profile: “women 19-25, work experience welcome; communicative, attractive appearance, aspirations for career growth. Salary from 400 hryvna [U.S.$76 per month].”249 In Premer 2000, under the “Young women” section, one multi-enterprise employer seeks, “Social and attractive young women for full-time work in supermarkets or salons.”250
Similarly, vacancy announcements for secretaries very often specify female candidates and list expectations about physical appearance, sometimes in addition to specifications regarding professional qualifications or education. In Iz ruk v ruki, an organization seeks a secretary: “young woman 19-35, likeable, slender, attractive appearance, knowledge of PCs, organizational technology, etiquette, careful, efficient, punctual, orderly, preferably with knowledge of English, high salary.”251 On the all-Ukraine website Rabota Plus, a “large company” advertises for an “Assistant to the Director-secretary-translator” with specific requirements for professional qualifications and then lists “additional requirements,” including, “communicativeness, pleasant appearance, height not less than 170[cm]…” and requesting applicants to “send resume only with photograph (appearance is very important).”252 In other cases, appearance is used as the primary or sole criterion for jobs. In one case, an employer posted, “A firm seeks a young attractive woman for work answering phones weekly.”253
As stated above, employers seeking women candidates for professional and managerial jobs also often include arbitrary requirements about appearance. Two vacancies in Proponuiu Robotu with the title “manager” seek a “young woman from 18 to 30. Attractive appearance”254 and “woman under 40, pleasant appearance.”255 Similarly, a position for an administrator in the April 7, 2003 edition of Nova Robota lists the job requirements as simply, “woman, work experience, appearance.”256
Appearance and Women’s Employment Experiences
Human Rights Watch interviewed women who stated that requirements for appearance negatively affect women’s access to jobs. In April 2003, Larisa L. called Transavi.com regarding an advertisement they listed in Proponuiu Robotu for an office manager. The announcement listed numerous professional requirements, including “English language and work with clients,” as well as requirements for appearance: “young women with attractive appearance.”257 While discussing the position with a woman in the company’s office, Larisa L. was told that they have “standards developed: tall and thin with a good-looking face, with good style.” She replied, “I am short and not too thin and I do not attract men.” Larisa L. told Human Rights Watch, that upon hearing this response, “The woman advised me to look for something different.”258 Inna I. said that in her job search she has found advertisements that specify physical characteristics to be very disconcerting and unappealing. “I’ve seen ads where they advertise for a secretary, woman, under 25, attractive, and tall…. My friend and I tried to figure out what could justify that.”259 An employee of a local employment center in Kharkiv confirmed that the employment center receives similar requests from employers regarding the physical appearance of women candidates. When making recommendations regarding potential candidates to employers the employment center staff attempts to fulfill these requirements.260
Because advertising specifying gender also reflects an employer’s attitudes with respect to the role of women workers, advertising specifying appearance is closely related to the problem of sexual harassment against women in the workplace. While it is beyond the scope of this report to investigate the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace in Ukraine, sociological surveys cited by the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) show that some 50 percent of women in Ukraine fall victim to sexual harassment at work. Other surveys cited by the IHF show cases of sexual harassment are one and a half times more frequent in private companies than in state enterprises. According to the IHF and other experts, legal proceedings have been instituted in only a handful of cases.261Many of the women whom Human Rights Watch interviewed described experiences with sexual harassment.
244 Men are not wholly immune from this form of discrimination. One restaurant specifying male candidates advertises in Nova Robota: “Restaurant announces the selection of employees. Waiter with work experience. Man, height over 170cm.” Nova Rabota no. 13, p. 25.
245 Proponuiu Robotu, April 2003, p. 85.
246 Ibid. In the context of employment advertising, the Russian words privlekatelnaia and priatnaia both refer specifically to physical features. Thus, both have been translated here as “attractive.”
247 Proponiu Rabotu, p. 85.
248 Ibid., p. 93
250 Premer 2000, p. 123.
251 Iz ruk v ruki, p. 32.
252 Rabota Plus [online] http://www.rabotaplus.com.ua/search.php (retrieved May 20, 2003).
253 Premer 2000, p. 124.
254 Proponuiu Robotu, p. 28.
255 Ibid., p. 29.
256 Nova Robota, p. 25.
257 Proponuiu Robotu, p. 24. Human Rights Watch correspondence with Larisa L., April 26, 2003.
258 Human Rights Watch correspondence with Larisa L., April 26, 2003.
259 Human Rights Watch interview with Inna I., Kiev, April 23, 2003.
260 Human Rights Watch interview with employment official, Regional Employment Center, Kharkiv, April 11, 2003.
261 SeeInternational Helsinki Federation, Women 2000 and Rudneva et al, Alternative Report, p. 14.