Women's group and JWT expose the 'career line'

An International Women's Day campaign in Hong Kong attacked use of the Cantonese phrase 'career line' to refer to a woman's cleavage.

In Cantonese, the phrase "career line" (事業線) refers to a woman's cleavage. The term seems to be an accepted form of casual sexism in polite society; 62 percent of male and female respondents recently polled by Edelman Intelligence said that the term was not derogatory or harmful.

That's just not right. So the Women's Foundation of Hong Kong set out to stop people speaking about women's careers in the same breath as their bodies, through the #MyRealCareerLine campaign with J Walter Thompson Hong Kong.

The campaign began with a stunt—a fictitious plastic surgery clinic called Career Line, with a pop-up booth outside Hong Kong University and a spoof website—before the foundation announced on International Women's Day that it was all fake and switched the website

Accomplished women, such as Olympic swimmer Stephanie Au, World snooker champion On-yee Ng, and Freshfields partner and China chairperson Teresa Ko are fronting the campaign, sharing the stories of their real "career line"—their path to success.

The campaign was inspired by findings from JWT's Female Tribes research, which showed that 40 percent of Hong Kong women felt talked down to at work and 53 percent said they did not have the same opportunities as men.

The poster for the campaign, a stylised line representing cleavage, is available for download on the campaign site, which invites members of the public and organisations to join in the campaign by ripping up the proverbial career line.

Campaign Asia Pacfic comments: Overall this is a commendable effort by the foundation and JWT Hong Kong. As language informs thought, it's important to stem the use of what many accept as a "harmless joke", because the thought behind it can do real harm.

The spoof plastic surgery clinic, however, rubbed us the wrong way. Although we understand the intent to draw attention by offending, it may indirectly cast a stigma on women who choose to undergo breast enhancement surgery—for whatever reasons.

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