They are called Programmer Motivators. These are attractive women hired to look after and massage coders at Chinese startups. Part cheerleader and psychologist, the women are hired to chat up and calm stressed-out coders. Sui-Lee Wee, business reporter for New York Times in China, looked into the life of Shen Yue, a “programmer motivator” who chats with her programmer colleagues and massages them to release their stress.

China’s technology space is searching for people like Shen Yue. To be clear, Shen Yue loves her job. Yue, 25, has a degree in civil engineering from a university in Beijing.

Qualifications for “Programmer Motivators” : Must be attractive, know how to charm socially awkward programmers and give relaxing massages.

Shen Yue works at Chaifin.com, a consumer finance company, as a “programmer motivator,” as they are known in China. Here the bulk of her work is tending the front desk, organizing social events, ordering snacks for tea breaks and chatting with the programmers. Also, listening to the various frustrations of coders at the end of a hectic day.The qualifications also describe how these motivators should also have a ‘contagious laugh’ and be taller than 5 feet 2 inches. However, Yue believes that a lot of feminist ideas are too extreme. She told NY Times, “I think women should be independent, self-reliant and have self-respect. And that’s enough.”

Ms. Zhang, the human resources executive who was part of the panel that hired Shen, believes it is vital for a programmer motivator to look good. She also told New York Times that applicants needed to have five facial features in their proper order and speak in a gentle way.

At some start-ups, having a programmer motivator on staff is one of the many perks to attract male coders.

Trailing behind in an equal work culture

According to a new study by Human Rights Watch, China’s employers engage in blatant gender discrimination, often advertising jobs for “men only,” while others hire women with physical attributes aimed at appealing to their male coworkers. While China’s tech scene has produced companies that rival Facebook, Google and Amazon in power and wealth, the work culture trails at many levels.In one online job recruitment video for male technicians posted by Alibaba, China’s largest internet company, it was stated that chosen candidates would work with a staff of beautiful women. The company, later removed the advertisement which referred to specific genders, saying it will conduct stricter reviews of the recruiting advertisements.

We spoke to women in India for reactions concerning this:

“I’ve been in the tech industry for a significant period of time. Coders are stressed at times? Yes. They need massages and motivational chats from women at the workplace?, NO. An idea like this even cultivating at first is demeaning, leave alone its implementation.” – Rashmi Chachan, Software Engineer.“And after endless debates and campaigns, the world is still stuck at women only being limited to how they look. And all this at a workplace? In my idea, it is both, weird and regressive at the same time.” – Vidhi Khanna, Master Financial Analyst

“All in the name of ‘programmer motivators’. This is how far beneath the level of thinking and human bias has reached. What about women? Who motivates them? If there’s no gender bias then show it and give them the power and upstage their presence. High Time to quit such acts of portraying women as entertainment pieces for self-relaxation. Time’s UP.” – Eshitav Lamba, Software Engineer.

Here are some twitter reactions on this:

In recent years, Chinese women entrepreneurs have made tremendous progress. Women like Yang Huiyan, Zhou Qunfei and Wu Yajun are some of the renowned names in the business. The country, which boasts of having the world’s largest number of self-made female billionaires, is still trailing behind when it comes to gender equality at workplace, at so many levels.  While many start-ups have women in senior roles, the inequality and bias is making news.  

Also read: UPSC Results: Haryana’s Anu Kumari, a Mother, Bags Second Rank

 Bhawana is an intern with Shethepeople.TV

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