Workplace sexism – calling out the objectification of women on LinkedIn

workplace sexism objectification of women on linkedin


A picture of a woman in a LBD was published by a male trader on LinkedIn. It’s had 100+ likes and 30+ comments like ‘sizzling’. On a professional platform. And when Amy stepped up to question it, no-one gave her support.

Last night, after playing my Solitaire Daily Challenge (go ahead, judge me), delighting in the wonder that is Monkman on University Challenge and salivating over interior sites on Facebook, I decided I might actually check LinkedIn.  Let’s all agree it’s the Billy No Mates of social media, lurking in the corner while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram enjoy Prosecco and pretzels.

Yes, I’m on LinkedIn. Yes, I believe a professional online presence is important in a world where only 30% of jobs are actually advertised.  Yes, I look up my prospective employers before an interview, and yes, I am certain they look me up too.  And of course, most of them are on LinkedIn, brandishing their career trajectories like eager school children with their end-of-year reports.

Despite a Twitter poll I ran which deemed it mainly useless, I found myself scrolling through LinkedIn in the hope of making more connections. That’s when I saw it: a post containing nothing more than a photo of a woman in a tight black dress, admiring herself in the mirror.

sexism on linkedin

It was published by a male trader. To date it’s received 117 likes and 35 LinkedIn members have commented.

Observations vary from ‘damn!! Sexy! J))’, to ‘Sizzling!’, to ‘benissima’, as if using an Italian superlative somehow makes the whole spectacle more palatable.  Because that’s what this is: a spectacle.

The woman is the object, and we are the spectators.  She is here purely to look at, and her professional position is irrelevant.  Let’s just put this in context: a photo of a woman has been posted on a careers networking site and a number of people, both men and women, have stated their approval.

I thought this was bad enough.  But when I commented, ‘Seriously?’, another member – another woman, in fact – replied, ‘Yes, seriously!!!’, complete with a thumbs-up emoji, as if to say, ‘We’ve all liked this, we’ve all got our thumbs up, what’s your problem?’.

(It may interest the reader here to know that the thumbs up gesture did not originate in the Roman Colosseum.  But there is an excellent Velázquez painting depicting several men giving their digital approval to an unknown observer.  Presumably, not a woman in a LBD.)

Let me make one thing absolutely clear: women can wear what the hell they like.  It’s 2017.  In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to erase an online presence, it is so important that women have autonomy in deciding how they want to be represented.  That’s what made me object to that post.

Since when did it become OK to publish a photo of a skimpily dressed woman on LinkedIn, seemingly without her consent?  And what’s more, where were the people agreeing with me that it’s not OK?

LinkedIn isn’t Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Those other social platforms are designed for people to express themselves in any number of ways, and all power to them. If they want to celebrate their sexuality and take joy in their appearance, that’s fine. LinkedIn is supposed to promote your professional capabilities and ONLY that. It’s absolutely not OK to discuss a professional in terms of anything other than work matters, and it is blatantly not OK to use their image without consent and reduce them to that image.

America saw a new president sworn in on 20th January 2017.  This is a man who once said that he would date his daughter if he wasn’t related to her.  This is a man who said, ‘I think putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing’.  This is a man who believes there ‘has to be some form of punishment’ for abortion.  He’s already taken the Presidency from a far better candidate.  Don’t let him take feminism too.

Did you march on Saturday in the @womensmarch?  Because if they took a photo, they’d better have commented on your opinion, and not your appearance.