Van driving, roofing, police work - all jobs for men. At least, that’s what a cluster of job ads placed on Facebook seemed to suggest.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday submitted a complaint to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that Facebook’s advertising system allows employers to target job ads based on gender - a practice the ACLU says is illegal.
Specifically, the complaint refers to three women in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois who were not shown advertisements for what have traditionally been considered male-dominated professions.
The complaint highlights 10 different employers who posted job adverts on Facebook - for roles such as mechanic, roofer and security engineer - but used the social network’s targeting system to control who saw the ad. In one example, that targeting meant one job was promoted to “men” who were “ages 25 to 35”, and lived "or were recently near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”.
A separate investigation by ProPublica discovered what it said were more examples showing a similar pattern.
Earlier this year the investigative journalism site released a tool which readers could use to collect data on the Facebook ads they had seen, and send that information directly to ProPublica for analysis.
Using that method, the site said it discovered men were targeted specifically in dozens of cities around the US for driving jobs with Uber. This conclusion was based on 91 ads placed by Uber's recruitment arm, only one of which was targeted specifically at women, with three not targeting any particular gender. The rest were designed to be seen by men only.
In a statement, Uber said: "We use a variety of channels to reach prospective drivers - both offline and online - with the goal of enabling more people, not fewer, to earn on their own schedule."