Job advert seeking swimsuit photo with application sparks sexism row in Italy

The advert was posted by a company based in Naples. Photograph: iStock

The Italian labour ministry has opened an investigation after a company seeking a female receptionist aged under 30 asked job applicants to include a photograph of themselves in a bathing costume alongside documents proving their credentials.

The advert, posted on several specialised job sites by a Naples-based security company, stipulated that the candidate must be female, no older than 30, a fluent English speaker and have their own car and “a sunny character with an attractive appearance”.

“We ask that you send a full photo in a bathing suit or similar,” the advert for the €500-a-month job went on to request. The incriminating line was later removed and the advert reposted, but not before a screenshot was widely shared across social media, sparking outrage.

“They want a photo in a bathing suit? What an absurd advert,” said Chiara Marciani, the labour councillor for Naples. “It is scandalous, and for several reasons – beginning with the search for a woman under the age of 30 and a salary that is absurdly inadequate for the commitment and tasks the job requires.”

The company, which is based in Naples’ business district, told the Italian press that the request for a bathing suit photo was “inappropriate” and the result of a “mere distraction” by the “inexperienced worker” who crafted the ad and who didn’t understand its policy on gender equality.

The labour minister, Andrea Orlando, has asked inspectors to investigate.

“The problem of sexism persists … there needs to be much more work done on gender equality,” said Ms Marciani. “There are so many issues that need to be addressed, especially in a city like Naples, which has a very low rate of women in employment.”

According to OECD data from 2019, less than half of all working-age Italian women were in jobs. The situation was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with women disproportionately affected by job losses.

Many women are forced to resign after becoming pregnant as they are unable to juggle work and family life, with lack of affordable childcare facilities and inflexible work conditions being among the main reasons.

Sexism has also been prevalent in billboard advertisements across Italy, prompting the senate to last year ban adverts on streets and all forms of transports deemed sexist or discriminatory. –Guardian News and Media