Tencent, the Chinese tech behemoth, sparked outrage this week when a video from its year-end party leaked online. The video shows employees participating in an incredibly sexist office game.
The women in the video appear on their knees, attempting to remove caps from water bottles positioned between the male coworkers’ thighs. The obvious novelty of the game is that they look like they’re performing oral sex on their male colleagues.
The seven-second clip reportedly comes from an annual dinner held by the company’s instant messaging department. Tencent has released a statement apologizing for the incident. It writes that employees responsible for the demeaning game have received “demerits” on their records.
Users of the massive Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo—which is owned by Tencent—expressed their disgust with the company’s behavior. According to Shanghaist, one user asked, “How could a company treat its workers in this way? Do they not have any sense of decency?”
One answer to that question could have something to do with the fact that Tencent doesn’t have a single female executive, board member or division chief. This is the latest incident highlighting the tech industry’s sexism problem in China. Shanghaiist writes:
In 2015, Alibaba was forced to withdraw a job advertisements for a female candidate looking like porn star Sora Aoi who was to be tasked with “motivating” her fellow coworkers.
That same year, Baidu celebrated International Women’s Day with a series of lackluster doodles perpetuating stereotypical images of women. [The] next year, a senior Baidu exec was demoted after giving an incredibly sexist presentation, in which he told the audience:
“If a girl says to me, ‘The air conditioning in my dorm doesn’t work, and I don’t want to go home,’ what does she mean? I think it means she wants to kiss and have some sex.”
Charlotte Han, a manager at 500 Startups and a co-founder of Lean in Beijing, told Bloomberg, “It’s quite shocking because my impression was that things were improving.” She said that “a lot of stereotype challenges that Chinese women face come from social and culture expectations.”
While the incident highlights rampant sexism in China’s tech industy, Silicon Valley still has many of the same issues. A 2016 survey found that 60% of women in the Valley have encountered sexual harassment. As for the tech industry’s gender gap in hiring, many companies are still lamely saying that there just aren’t enough qualified candidates to diversify staff.
In a blog post about Facebook’s diversity in 2016, Maxine Williams, the company’s global director of diversity, wrote, “appropriate representation in technology . . . will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system.” Experts say that the larger issue is that too often tech companies heavily rely on internal hiring recommendations.