Removing Gender Bias in Job Descriptions: Why & How

gender bias in job descriptions

Removing gender bias from job descriptions isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. In fact, research from McKinsey & Company shows that companies with a gender-diverse workforce are 15% more likely to outperform those that don’t have one.

However, building a gender-diverse workplace isn’t alway easy, especially with so many women having left the workforce — a phenomenon coined the “she-cession.” The first step toward building a more gender-diverse workplace? Removing gender bias in job ads.

Here’s an overview of why gender-neutral job descriptions are so important and how to remove gender bias from your wording.

What Is Gendered Wording?

Words that are gender-coded have an unconscious association with female or male characteristics. The gendered-aspect of the wording is due to stereotypes, but it isn’t always obvious or explicit. Rather, a candidate reading a job description with gendered wording may subconsciously think to themselves, “Am I the right fit for this job?” or “Are they looking for someone like me?”

Some examples of masculine-coded words include “active,” “assertive,” and “dominant.” Examples of feminine-coded words include “affectionate,” “honest,” and “kind.”

Why Should Your Job Descriptions Be Gender-Neutral?

A team from Duke University and University of Waterloo studied the impact of gender-biased language in job descriptions and how it affects recruitment. The findings make a strong business case for eliminating gender bias. Gender-neutral job descriptions result in:

  • 20% better apply rate as compared to job descriptions with male-coded words
  • 29% more applications for gender-neutral descriptions
  • 41% lower cost per application compared to descriptions with female- and male-coded words

Which Industries Are Women Underrepresented In?

Knowing which industries are male-dominated will help you more easily identify gender bias in job descriptions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up a small percentage of the workforce in these industries:

  • Transportation & utilities
  • Mining, quarrying, and oil & gas extraction
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Women also make up a relatively low percentage of:

  • Software developers
  • Computer programmers
  • Civil engineers
  • Truck drivers

How to Remove Gender Bias From Job Descriptions

#1: Speak Directly to the Candidate

When you describe the responsibilities of the ideal candidate, use “you” instead of “she” or “he.” For example: “As Marketing Manager for XYZ, you will own, develop, and execute omnichannel marketing programs and digital media campaigns for retailers across North America.”

#2: Show Your Commitment to DEI

Applicants want to feel welcome and know they’ll be supported in your work culture before they choose to submit an application. Include a statement in your job description indicating your intention to create a nurturing workplace that values Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

#3: Stay Away From Superlatives

Avoid excessively using superlatives, such as “guru,” “expert,” or “first-class,” as these terms can alienate women who are more collaborative than competitive. Superlatives related to a candidate’s background can also turn off female applicants, as there are fewer women in leadership roles at “world-class” companies.

#4: Promote Company Values & Volunteering Activities

If your company has well-defined values that relate to diversity, list them out in your job description. Additionally, highlight volunteer opportunities encouraged by your company. For example, some companies offer their employees PTO days to go volunteer with organizations like Girls Inc., as well as female-friendly leadership and mentorship programs.

#5: Make Sure Your Job Titles Are Gender Neutral

In job titles, avoid using male-oriented words, such as “ninja,” “hacker,” “data geek,” or “guru.” Instead, use more neutral and straight-forward titles like “marketing manager,” “software developer,” or “director of sales.”

Wrapping Up: Gender & Recruitment in 2022

The words you use in your recruitment efforts have a big impact on the success of your company’s talent attraction. By paying attention to gender-coded wording in your job descriptions, you can remove biases and create a more equitable workplace in 2022.

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