Have you ever wondered what makes you apply for a certain job posting? Is it that you feel you have the desired skills? Or maybe it’s the benefits package that appealed to you? It could also be that the job at the company you’ve always wanted to work for has just opened, so you go for it.
All of those things matter, of course, but there is more that goes to your decision making process than you think. For starters, your gender. You might think, gender has nothing to do with applying for a job. The postings are available to everyone equally, so both women or men might apply if they wish.
The research suggests otherwise. There is growing evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists. Even though in many countries, there are laws that prohibit companies from advertising specifically for men or women, it’s not as simple as using words like ‘she’ or ‘he’, or putting male/female at the end of a job title.
Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay in their research paper showed that ‘gender preferences can still be conveyed with more subtle cues such as traits and stereotypes typically associated with certain genders‘.
Let’s check it: What comes to your mind when you hear the words like ‘dominant’, ‘competitive’, ‘driven’? What about when you hear ‘supportive’, ‘committed’ and ‘understanding’?
You see, it’s hard not to be biased. Those cues are deeply rooted within us. It comes naturally to think of a man when given adjectives like ‘dominant’, ‘competitive’, ‘driven’. That’s not to say that there aren’t dominant, competitive and driven women. Of course, there are! It’s just that our minds try to make sense of the world based on long-lived archetypes, which attribute such adjectives more to men than women.
Similarly with ‘supportive’, ‘committed’ and ‘understanding’. Don’t you just naturally picture nice and smiley second-gradee teacher who takes care of your kids’ education at school. Oh, somehow she happens to be a woman. What a surprise!
It seems that gender inequality in certain professions is not a mystery after all.
Gaucher, Friesen, and Kay concluded in their research that ‘women were less likely to believe they belonged in a particular job when the advertisement used masculine wording, and they rated masculine jobs as less appealing‘.
Providing that woman would be the perfect fit for a job that’s advertised, if the job ad is written in a way so that it includes more ‘manly’ adjectives, this woman would still not apply. She would not believe she belonged there. She would not think of such a job as appealing.
Considering, that half of the job market are women, it would be a real shame, if people didn’t find well-fitted jobs, just because someone didn’t make an effort to write an ad correctly. The issue of gender bias goes both ways. Men are also less likely to apply for a job if it sounds too ‘feminine’. What a wasted opportunity for the job market overall, as well as for individual professional lives.
What can be done about gender bias in job advertising?
Luckily, we live in times, where there are smart solutions to such problems. Whereas we cannot magically make people be less biased, there are certain things that could be done to make the job market more even.
A simple tool called ‘Gender decoder’ could help. It was created out of inspiration from a previously mentioned research paper written by Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay back in 2011, called Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2011, Vol 101(1), p109-28).
It’s a free online tool, where you can quickly check if the job ad is biased towards certain gender. That’s a great start for any HR Manager or Recruiter. Knowing what words to use and which to avoid, will help with creating balanced job descriptions.
This is an augmented writing platform, which helps you to write more powerfully. You can check for gender bias, while the system is proposing alternative wording, as you go. It alerts you when your copy is drawn too much towards male or female job seekers. It gives you a prediction of how well your job post is written in general. Great tool for HR teams.
It is true that the quality of answers you get depend on the quality of your questions. For employers, it’s as simple as the quality of your workforce depends on a successful recruitment process. Successful in this case means unbiased, giving equal opportunities to all candidates who might suit the role. It takes extra effort for the organizations to reconsider their job ads strategy, looking into gender bias. Clear efforts to even out the chances for both genders, would benefit not only the individuals but also the entire organization.
As for job seekers – if you are aware of it, you can try to adapt. Next time you read a job ad, remember, that it could have been written by someone who had no clue about gender bias. It could be unintentionally skewed towards men or women. Try to analyze it and go beyond wording. Consider, that maybe, just maybe, it could be the perfect job for you. Just it’s written in an imperfect way. Give it a try and apply. Good luck.