Making Job Descriptions Gender Neutral

Are you a recruiter? Have you, at some point of your career, wondered why is it that most applicants applying to the jobs you put out are male? One of the most obvious answers is how your job descriptions are worded. Is it calling out to male candidates? While you may not have been gender exclusive on purpose, you haven’t been gender inclusive either. In order to defeat the ever-growing glass ceiling when it comes to women at work, every stakeholder needs to plays a more active role. It is important to approach recruitment with sensitivity and to ensure that you are gender inclusive in your call for applications.

In this post, we are going to share some very powerful words from powerful women that Undercover Recruiter put together, in their article How Can Job Descriptions Be More Gender Neutral?

To understand the dynamics of what we are trying to explain, can be best done through knowing how and why gender exclusive job descriptions affect women. Here are their voices –

Angela Bortolussi, Partner at Recruiting Social

A few years ago I sat with my hiring manager, a Director of Engineering, and he said “Angela, I asked my wife to review the job description for our Front End Engineering role – she is also a Front End Engineer, and she told me ‘I wouldn’t apply for this role.’”

He of course asked her “Why?” She mentioned the job description had so many hard stops in terms of qualifications. For example, you must have 8+ years of experience, React experience is a must, and a Computer Science Degree is a must. She felt that she was somewhat qualified but didn’t have the exact qualifications needed for the role, and ultimately wouldn’t attempt applying.

He decided to take this into consideration and re-write the job description to become more gender neutral to hopefully increase the attention of women applying. (Guess what? It worked!)

Keep in mind though it’s a tough to really understand the thought-process when it comes to candidates applying for roles. Whatever the reason is, I think we (women) respond to job ads/posts differently.

Rebecca Fraser, National Executive Committee, Career Development Association of Australia

It is quite interesting how some words can be perceived as being more attractive depending on your gender. Removing gender specific words, an example may be he or she and Chairman or Chairwoman. This is challenging in some languages where they have grammatical gender and this may require job adverts and job titles to specifically confirm that they are being offered to all genders. Other language could be seen as more attractive to the male gender, such as describing the work environment as fast paced and challenging, or dominant and determined. Although many females will be attracted to this environment, research has shown that these words can be perceived as being about a male dominated work environment.

Lysha Holmes, Owner and Recruiter, Qui Recruitment R2R

It is essential that a job description is written as a narrative to the potential employee regardless of gender. Avoid assumptions, focus on skills and attitude, potential and opportunity rather than a “person” per se and therefore stereotypes can be avoided. This should include imagery used to promote any post on social media.

Poonam Mawani, Director, Azuki Accounts

Job descriptions are so important. They are the first impression of a company’s culture. There is software available now that can remove and replace gendered descriptions and words. There are certain phrases that can either attract more men or women. These should be identified and replaced to attract a more balanced candidate pool. How a firm describes itself in a job description is also important.

Amanda Bell, Director of Recruiting, Lever

Luckily, this can be pretty easy. Review your job descriptions with the lens of “Who is the audience here?” If your answer is “any qualified candidate, regardless of gender,” you’ve done a good job! It’s not just about the presence of gender-specific pronouns – it’s also about using language that is inclusive of all genders. Stay away from phrases like “kick ass,” “ninja,” and, believe it or not, “brah.” You can also ask a few employees of various genders to read the descriptions and solicit feedback.

Making sure that job descriptions are crafted in a neutral manner is in fact one of the primary steps towards implementing gender equality at the work place. Have you read our post on implementation of gender equality at the work place? You can read it here. You can also read more posts from our gender series by clicking on the following links:

Gender Equity Before Gender Equality: Why Women Need More
The Importance of Gender Diversity in The World of Work
5 Unconventional Career Tracks Women are Making it Big In

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