Casual sexism still exists in the modern bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, even being baked into the local language where the phrase 事業線, or “Career Line,” is used to refer to a woman’s cleavage.
The Women’s Foundation and J. Walter Thompson have collaborated in a campaign in challenging the phrase, to kickstart conversations around objectification and inequality in the workplace. The campaign also looks to celebrate talent and capabilities, the real career line of Hong Kong women.
A website and online campaign promoting a fictional plastic surgery clinic called Career line was created, and coupled with a pop-up booth at Hong Kong University promoting the clinic’s services of enhancing a woman’s cleavage to stand out in the job market.
The spoof was revealed on International Women’s Day, where the website was switched to #MyRealCareerLine campaign. Female icons in business, entertainment and sports, such as swimmer Stephanie Au, Freshfields China chairman Teresa Ko and student Daisy Ngai shared stories behind their ‘real career line’.
“We needed to do something disruptive to get people to rethink the term,” says Jocelyn Tse, head of Strategic Planning at J. Walter Thompson Hong Kong, “with the stunt plastic surgery firm, we took the notion behind the phrase to an extreme to show the absurdity of it, and to raise awareness of this sort of everyday, casual sexism that people have become almost numb to.”
J. Walter Thompson’s Female Tribes research inspired the campaign, where 40% of respondents felt talked down to at work and 53% felt they lacked the same professional opportunities as men.
Regular use of the phrase, career line, numbs people to it and diminishes a woman’s professional achievements. According to a recent survey by Edelman Intelligence, 62% of male and female respondents said the phrase was not derogatory or harmful.
However, 40% said women in Hong Kong are routinely subject to inappropriate comments on their bodies in the office, and 62% of women felt discriminated based on their looks. Underscoring this point, one in four men between 31 to 40 years old, believed a woman’s success is based on physical appearance.
“The #MyRealCareerLine campaign encourages everyone to reject the popular use of the term “career line” to refer to a woman’s cleavage and invites people and organisations to make a stand against casual sexism, objectification and inequality,” says Su-Mei Thompson, chief executive officer of The Women’s Foundation, ”We hope the role models in our film will inspire greater recognition of women’s true talents and capabilities.”