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Spain probes gender discrimination claims at Mobile World Congress

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Spain probes gender discrimination claims at Mobile World Congress
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REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ
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Catalan authorities have opened an investigation into allegations of sexist discrimination in the selection of hostesses working for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, following a report by a labour union.

"Who says that size does not matter? Well, in this case, it definitely does since hostesses taller than 1.75 metres earn more than their fellow coworkers below this height," the report of the General Union of Workers of Catalonia (UGT) said.

"We have found a specific job ad that says you have to wear a short skirt, thin stockings, heels of at least 5 centimetres, makeup... In a particular offer, there is a salary difference depending on the height of the employee," Núria Gigaldo, the Secretary of Trade Union Policy of UGT, told Euronews.

The offer in question, posted on a Spanish employment website and removed since then, specified that the salary for hostesses below 1.75 metres was €6.20 per hour compared to €7.20 for their taller colleagues.

Other requirements in job ads posted on social media included fitting a size 36 or 38.

Organisers deny discrimination allegations

Reached by Euronews, Claire Cranton, PR director at GSMA, vigorously denied the allegations. Her company was contracted by the Mobile World Congress to provide logistics for the event.

"We are confident that the staff employed (...) are not asked to fulfil an unacceptable set of standards for employment at MWC Barcelona," Cranton said.

"We expect all attendees including the temporary staff that we employ to dress suitably in business attire. The host team are provided with a uniform of black trousers or skirt (to the knee) and white blouse with black jacket and a red scarf/tie. We do not specify height, weight, dress size etc. and to suggest so is completely false," Cranton continued.

Pau Mascort, senior project manager of the hostess agency Tais which was among those in charge of recruiting for the event, told Euronews that an excellent presentation was among their requirements but that they were not focussing on any particular physical characteristics.

Although his company didn't recruit based on height, Mascort said he didn't find such selection criteria to be problematic.

"There is a new tendency for clients to ask for particular profiles," he said. "It's not discrimination, we are available for customers' demands."

Euronews reporter Emma Beswick, who covered the World Mobile Congress for the network, said she didn't notice that a certain "type" of person had been employed to work on the stands. "Most appeared to be students or communications representatives directly from the exhibiting companies," she said, noting there were slightly more women than men manning the stands.

The congress is held annually in Barcelona and is known as the largest mobile tech event in the world.