Ads on LinkedIn targeting women make me want to delete my account

I have a LinkedIn profile. As someone who is about to hire three programmers to work in my research center at Princeton University, I may find it helpful in reaching top candidates. That’s assuming I don’t delete my account over the insulting banner ads I am treated to almost every time I log in.

First there are the banner ads for the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW). Google “NAPW Scam” and you will find plenty of blog posts detailing the experience of women who have paid almost $1,000 for an annual membership only to find out that the organization does not do anything for them and will not refund their money. For comparison, my membership in the Association for Computing Machinery (the premier, international professional association for Computer Scientists) only set me back $99. LinkedIn even hosts a blog post detailing these problems from LAST YEAR, The Art of the Scam: Say no to the NAPW and yet the banner ads continue.

Then I opened my account this morning to accept an Invitation and found this waiting for me:

Banner Ad Text: “NYC Egg Donation - Seeking smart, cute under 30 Donor.  Receive up to $8,000 compensation”
“NYC Egg Donation – Seeking smart, cute, under 30 Donor. Receive up to $8,000.00 compensation.”

I’m sorry. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. Cute? Under 30? At a bare minimum, if you are going to mine my personal profile at least bother to CHECK MY AGE. I graduated from college 11 years ago. I’m 33. Your algorithm sucks.

But ageism is the least of my concerns. LinkedIn professes to be a place where you can:

  • “Build your professional identity online and stay in touch with colleagues and classmates.”
  • “Discover professional opportunities, business deals, and new ventures.”
  • “Get the latest news, inspiration, and insights you need to be great at what you do.”

(Quoted from Accessed on 31 July 2015 10:04:00.)

Apparently what I can be great at doing (or could have been 4 years ago, assuming I was sufficiently “cute”) is selling my eggs. Not conducting cutting edge research. Not finishing my dissertation. Not writing open source software. Not even looking for a job. No.

Selling. My. Eggs.

At this point I want to take a breath, and say that I really sympathize with people who want to be parents. It is a noble and wonderful calling, and it is a tribute to modern medicine that there are many (still far too expensive) treatments for people who have the misfortune of not being able to conceive the children they so desperately want to love, cherish, and raise to be strong men and women.

But don’t advertise on LinkedIn. Or, more importantly, LinkedIn shouldn’t be taking this money. What LinkedIn is saying by accepting advertising dollars from egg donation banks is that professional women should know they can make some cash on the side by selling part of their bodies.

If you want to be an egg donor, more power to you. Call the number you see on a billboard, or in the subway, or in a newspaper. Or even on some other website NOT DEVOTED TO PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING.

And for those of you thinking, so what?  Why should I care if a social media site has shitty marketing?


Professional women already have to deal with so much crap in their lives — finding a good job, getting treated like a human being at work, not being passed over for promotion — all of these are much harder for women than men.  Heck, LinkedIn sends me articles on this very issue at least once a week.  So when a site that bills itself as helping people succeed in a professional context goes and treats their clients like baby farms or easy marks, it hurts more.  Context matters.  And women who already live with the stress of being female in their profession will feel it more.

What this ad, when displayed on LinkedIn, says to professional women is: we know you have skills and smarts, but we don’t care if you to use them in your life. We just want to you to pass them on to the next generation. We don’t want your brains, honey, we just want your genes.

And given that the other ad I see most frequently is for the NAPW scam, I really don’t think LinkedIn wants my brains at all.

So will I delete my LinkedIn account? I haven’t decided. Partly because I am interested in hearing what LinkedIn will say about my concerns.

And, for the record, saying nothing in this instance definitely counts as saying something.


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