Chinese tech firms pledged on Monday to tackle gender bias in recruitment after a rights group said they routinely favored male candidates, luring applicants with the promise of working with "beautiful girls" in job advertisements.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report found that major technology companies including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent had widely used "gender discriminatory job advertisements," which said men were preferred or specifically barred women applicants.
Some ads promised candidates they would work with "beautiful girls" and "goddesses," HRW said in a report based on an analysis of 36,000 job posts between 2013 and 2018.
Tencent, which runs China's most popular messenger app WeChat, apologized for the ads after the HRW report was published on Monday.
"We are sorry they occurred and we will take swift action to ensure they do not happen again," a Tencent spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
E-commerce giant Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma, vowed to conduct stricter reviews to ensure its job ads followed workplace equality principles, but refused to say whether the ads singled out in the report were still being used.
"Our track record of not just hiring but promoting women in leadership positions speaks for itself," said a spokeswoman.
Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of search engine Google, meanwhile said the postings were "isolated instances."
HRW urged Chinese authorities to take action to end discriminatory hiring practices.
Its report also found nearly one in five ads for Chinese government jobs this year were "men only" or "men preferred."
"Sexist job ads pander to the antiquated stereotypes that persist within Chinese companies," HRW China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement.
"These companies pride themselves on being forces of modernity and progress, yet they fall back on such recruitment strategies, which shows how deeply entrenched discrimination against women remains in China," she added.
China was ranked 100 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum's 2017 Gender Gap Report, after it said the country's progress towards gender parity has slowed.