The big gender problem with job postings

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Employers who strive to create diverse and inclusive workplaces may be having their efforts undermined by subtle discrimination that’s crept into their job descriptions – that’s the warning from one academic study.

Published by the American Psychological Association, the research suggests HR professionals may be inadvertently alienating women by using predominantly masculine language in their job postings.

While men appeared to be largely unaffected by the presence of feminine words, the study found that women were far less interested in job descriptions that were more heavily weighted with masculine words – such as ambitious, competitive, and dominate.

They also found that female job seekers became significantly more interested in male-dominated roles – such as engineering – when advertisements had been amended to be fully unbiased.

Interestingly, the female respondents were not aware of the gendered language and explained their preferences as simply being indifferent towards the job – even though they became more interested when feminine language was used to describe the same position.

So – if the applicants who were put off by the job description can’t even identify the feminine and masculine lexis – how can HR?

Fiona Ireland is the head of HR for Trade Me – she told HRM that one of the company’s many diversity initiatives includes running all job descriptions through an analytical app.

“In recruitment, we’re really careful about the language that we use in our job adverts so we use an app called Textio which looks at the language and highlights where words may be swayed towards either gender,” she revealed.

“We’re not going out of our way to use feminine words,” she stressed, “we’re just trying to do be balanced in terms of the language and the words that we’re use.”

An example of a masculine and feminine job postings used in the study can be compared below:

Engineer company description:

Feminine: We are a community of engineers who have effective relationships with many satisfied clients. We are committed to understanding the engineer sector intimately.

Masculine: We are a dominant engineering firm that boasts many leading clients. We are determined to stand apart from the competition.


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