A Melbourne-based driving school for Chinese speakers has apologized for an advertisement on its website describing female instructors as “timid and weak” and for boasting about only having experienced male teachers.
Number 1 Driver School, located in the inner-city suburb of Carlton in Melbourne, Australia, sparked outrage after Mel Wang, a prospective female student, stumbled upon the school’s ad and later shared a screen shot of it on the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu in July.
“Female driving instructors are timid [and] weak,” the ad previously read. “They tend to spend most of the class time on minor roads, can’t perform intensive training and their students often improve only very slowly.”
Although Number 1 Driver School reportedly reached out to Wang to apologize for the ad, she told ABC Australia that she questioned the apology’s sincerity. She believes the school only updated the wording of its ad due to the online backlash, saying, “They took it [the copy] off because so many people were reposting and seeking to report them to authorities.”
Wang also claimed that the school never apologized for the ad on its website and threatened its online critics with legal action.
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“You won’t find any apology on their website and many people who choose to learn with them are not aware of what happened,” she said.
In a statement to ABC Australia, Diversity Council Australia Chief Executive Officer Lisa Annese said it is important to call out ads like the one that Number 1 Driver School posted. She also informed the public that they can send their complaints about discriminatory ads to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“Our recent research She’s Price(d)less shows that gender discrimination, including examples like this and the use of stereotypes like ‘timid’ and ‘weak’, are key drivers of the gender pay gap,” she added.
Number 1 Driver School spokesperson Andrew Wang claimed that the school did not intend on discrediting women. He also said the ad was posted in response to a previous ad that said women are better at teaching driving than men are.
“We have published an apology on Xiaohongshu, and we respect women’s equal rights at work,” he said. He also admitted that the ad was “very inappropriately worded.”
Responding to the legal threat accusations, he said that one of the school’s employees posted those threats and should not have. The employee has already “been demoted and no longer speaks for the school.”
“That was only his personal claim,” he said. “The school deleted the posts immediately when we found out.”
Number 1 Driver School, which currently has 16 male instructors, eventually updated its ad and is now “urgently” hiring two female instructors “at the request of the general public.”