Are Your Job Descriptions Fogging Up the Glass Ceiling?

glass_ceilingMost companies today understand the need to build a diverse workforce, comprised of individuals of different backgrounds and life experiences from which they can draw to innovate and drive the business forward. In particular, many organizations are seeking to improve gender diversity and get more women in key roles throughout their companies. But while it’s one thing to extend outreach and project the employer brand to a female audience, the most qualified candidates may lose interest before they even apply. The culprit? Job descriptions that turn them away.

It might not be readily apparent, but your job descriptions may include words or phrases that deter women from applying. A recent study from the Technishe Univeritat Munchen (TUM) found that words such as “assertive,” “aggressive” or “independent,” are generally associated with male stereotypes and can make it seem as though the job is intended for a male employee. As a result, women don’t see themselves in the role and self-select out of the application process. Not only does this hamper efforts to improve diversity, but it will ultimately prevent the company from hiring the best talent for their organization.

So, what can be done to attract female candidates? The research shows that women react more positively to words like “responsible,” “dedicated” and “conscientious.” In addition, job descriptions that emphasize the need to spend a lot of time traveling can also turn the best women away. For jobs in which a great deal of travel is required, it is well worth it to highlight the company’s commitment to work/life balance or offering flexibility and tele-commuting arrangements counteract the traveling aspect of the job. But it’s not just about word choice – even the images associated with a job ad or career site can do damage; that stock photo of a smiling man in a business suit can also make female candidates think that the job is geared towards a male employee.

To avoid such instances of unintended bias, it is important to create robust job descriptions and career pages and keep them as gender-neutral as possible. And if you think that making job descriptions less male-oriented will, in turn, result in fewer male candidates applying, that simply isn’t the case. As the TUM research found, men are just as likely to apply to a job, regardless of the wording.  

The goal of any recruiting program is to get the best talent into the organization, no matter their gender. But if your job descriptions are inadvertently too male oriented, you may be alienating a significant portion of the qualified talent pool. As hiring will only continue to become more competitive, it is important to ensure your job descriptions aren’t turning the best candidates away. By keeping a mind toward inclusive language and associated recruitment marketing content, you can develop a more inclusive approach to recruiting and entice the best candidates of any gender or background to join your team.

For weekly emails with new blog content, "How We Hire" stories, and links to get articles from around the web, subscribe to our Modern Recruiter Roundup Newsletter!

Subscribe Now!

Filed Under: