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Virtual Clinic “Increasing Fairness in Targeted Advertising: The Risk of Gender Stereotyping by Job Ad Algorithms”

13 November 2020

Excited about cutting-edge problem-solving with concrete policy impact? Seeking new insights and networking opportunities? Become part of our February 2021 virtual clinic! Application deadline: Sunday, 6 December 2020, 11:59 pm.


Put yourself in the shoes of a medical professional on the job hunt. Ads for medical assistant positions keep popping up in your social media feeds. Your friend, who has a similar background, is also searching for a new position. But the job ads your friend receives are mostly for higher-paid positions, like doctor vacancies. The likely difference between the two of you? Your gender, deemed relevant by an algorithm. Similar cases of gender-based discrimination by online platforms’ ad-serving algorithms are well-documented, yet there is no clear-cut solution on how to ensure that recommender systems and design choices optimised for click-rates do not reinforce gender stereotypes in the labour market. This raises urgent questions: How can we best avoid harmful societal consequences of seemingly well-intentioned targeted advertising strategies? Do we need less targeted systems for ad deliveries or ones that grant their target groups a meaningful choice regarding the kinds of job ads they are interested in? Might there even be a case to be made that targeted advertising should be stopped altogether? These are just some of the questions we would like to tackle together with you in our clinic! Join a vibrant community of excellent scholars and practitioners to explore a key challenge of online communication spaces: who gets to see what – and who decides why.


We invite applications from professionals from academia, industry and civil society with diverse backgrounds (HR, data science, software engineering, product management and design, STS, gender studies, law, social science, and related fields) to join our virtual clinic on

“Increasing Fairness in Targeted Advertising:
The Risk of Gender Stereotyping by Job Ad Algorithms”

hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)
between 1 – 14 February 2021 (10-20 hours per week)

What we offer you

  • a unique opportunity to participate in a focused solution-oriented process and to engage in groundbreaking problem-solving with outstanding international colleagues
  • a chance to learn from and interact with renowned experts in the field
  • access to a trans- and interdisciplinary community of professionals dedicated to increasing fairness in targeted advertising and platform governance 
  • networking opportunities and potential avenues for further research collaboration
  • actionable output on a key issue of today, algorithmic fairness
  • support and guidance from a committed project team and mentors at the HIIG and its NoC partner institutions

What we expect

  • interest in the topic of targeted advertising and algorithmic content curation 
  • relevant work experience or excellent academic qualifications (HR, data science, software engineering, product management and design, STS, gender studies, law, social science, and related fields)
  • passion for trans- and interdisciplinary work
  • fluency in English
  • commitment to take part in recurring virtual sessions (estimated time commitment: 10-20 hours a week within the first two weeks of February)
  • willingness to contribute to knowledge transfer activities during and after the clinic
  • high motivation to produce outputs within the timeframe of the clinic

How to apply

  • up-to-date curriculum vitae in English
  • personal statement which explores one of the following two questions (see below) with responses not to exceed 250 words per questions
    • What do you perceive as the most pressing question related to fairness and targeted advertising of jobs?
    • What has been the most challenging aspect of working in a team for you? If you identify as working in a technical field, you might also tell us about your experiences in collaborating with someone with a non-technical background.
  • optional: one writing or work sample covering the topic (in English or German)

The clinic’s preliminary agenda will be published in due time.


About the research project

The virtual clinic is part of the NoC research project “The Ethics of Digitalisation – From Principles to Practices”, which aims to develop viable answers to challenges at the intersection of ethics and digitalisation. Innovative formats facilitate interdisciplinary scientific work on application-, and practice-oriented questions and achieve outputs of high social relevance and impact. Our first research sprint on algorithmic tools for content moderation has just successfully concluded. The project promotes an active exchange between science, politics and society and thus contributes to a global dialogue on the ethics of digitalisation.


Besides the HIIG, the main project partners are the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, the Digital Asia Hub, and the Leibniz Institute  for Media Research I Hans-Bredow-Institut.

The project stands under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and is funded by the Mercator Foundation. 


Project Team

Nadine Birner, HIIG 

Shlomi Hod, HIIG

Matthias C. Kettemann, HBI/HIIG

Alexander Pirang, HIIG

Friederike Stock, HIIG

This post represents the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of the institute itself. For more information about the topics of these articles and associated research projects, please contact

Nadine Birner

Coordinator: The ethics of digitalisation | NoC

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