Social media outrage over Malaysian law firm’s job ad allegedly seeking ‘female only and good looking’ applicants

Keertan Ayamany
·3-min read
A screenshot showing the advertisement that was allegedly uploaded on the Malaysian Bar’s job search platform yesterday — also International Women’s Day — was posted on Facebook by user Aidhil Khalid, and has since garnered 461 shares by other users. — Screenshot from Facebook
A screenshot showing the advertisement that was allegedly uploaded on the Malaysian Bar’s job search platform yesterday — also International Women’s Day — was posted on Facebook by user Aidhil Khalid, and has since garnered 461 shares by other users. — Screenshot from Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Malaysians have taken to social media to express their dismay after an image was shared purporting that a law firm’s advertisement to hire a legal assistant included the criteria “female only and good looking”.

A screenshot showing the advertisement that was allegedly uploaded on the Malaysian Bar’s job search platform yesterday — also International Women’s Day — was posted on Facebook by user Aidhil Khalid, and has since garnered 461 shares by other users.

“What kind of job ad is this? Requirement: ‘female only and good looking’. Seriously? Do you want to find a legal assistant or find a sugar baby,” said Aidhil.

Aidhil also said that the criteria has since been removed from the advertisement.

A Malay Mail check on the Malaysian Bar job search platform at 3pm today also found that the criteria was not seen in a nearly identical advertisement.

The law firm in question has since taken responsibility for the episode and apologised.

“We wish to clarify that it was an honest mistake on our part wherein the said advertisement was published without the partner’s approval.

“We have retracted the advertisement and we regret the mistake. Once again, we offer our apologies,” a spokesman said in an email response to Malay Mail.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the purported advertisement does not constitute a disciplinary breach under the Bar’s rules and regulations “as per current rulings”, but denounced the criteria as inappropriate.

“Employers may request prospect employees to have certain professional skills that fit the job and work categories, mainly in professional organisations, but preference to have certain ‘looks’ is not an appropriate requirement.

“It can be construed to deny equal rights, and discriminative in nature, to advertise for job recruitments based on one’s appearances,” he said when contacted.

Women’s Centre for Change programme director Karen Lai also questioned the motivation of the employer firm involved, calling the move to include such a criteria “unprofessional”.

“A person’s appearance has nothing to do with their competency for the job.

“It’s disappointing that in this day and age, this type of post objectifying women on the basis of their age and physical appearance should not appear in an advertisement for a professional position no less,” she said.

Young lawyers are reportedly vulnerable to sexual harassment in the legal profession with odds stacked against victims, such as legal hurdles in a Malaysian Bar mechanism that prevented an inquiry into a sexual harassment allegation from being held.

A petition initiated last year highlighted the problem, and was signed by over 4,000 lawyers calling on the Malaysian Bar to take action.

* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.

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