When writing our advertisements, our priorities lie in attracting the candidates we need while portraying a strong and desirable employment brand to entice them to apply. Right?
But perhaps what we are doing is the opposite?
According to one report, only 38% of job ads use gender-neutral language, yet gender-neutral ads are said to achieve 29% more applications per job.
So, why as an industry, are we not taking note?
Well, the chances are, the language used is not recognised as favouring one gender.
So, we use it freely without considering what image those words actually portray to a potential applicant.
For example, the words ‘dominant’ and ‘aggressive’ could be perceived as masculine, just like ‘compassion’ and ‘sensitive’ may be perceived as feminine.
LinkedIn’s Language Matters report found that the word ‘aggressive’ discouraged 44% of women from applying for a role and a third of men.
And instead suggested that both genders react equally positively to language such as ‘powerful’; ‘strong-willed’; and ‘confident’.
What is also worth noting is the way you describe your work environment.
Words like ‘demanding’ or ‘pressured’ could suggest a negative working environment, so LinkedIn suggests using ‘fast paced’ in this context instead.
But the real question is, by evaluating the use of language in our recruitment process, could we be attracting more diverse candidates?
Well, Openreach believes it could help them do just that.
They believe this could help them reach their goal of recruiting a minimum of 20% females into new roles this year (ten times more than historic levels).
This became apparent after finding that hidden bias in job adverts deters 50% of female applicants from engineering roles. A heavily male-dominated sector.
But when presented with a gender-inclusive advert during the study, women’s interest in the role increased by more than 200%, with 60% stating this was because of the way it was written.
Following the research, Openreach has now taken a detailed look at the language it uses across all of its recruitment channels, working with linguistic specialists Linguistic Landscapes and gender bias experts.
Openreach HR Director Kevin Brady said: “Whether it's overt discrimination or a more subtle forms of bias, male-dominated industries like engineering have traditionally been challenging for women.
“Our engineers aren’t defined by their gender, they’re defined by what they do, and this research is incredibly important in helping us to develop ways to redress the balance.
“We were amazed to see just how much of a difference language makes and have started the process of assessing and changing all relevant language to help overcome the challenges of diversity recruitment.
“We hope that this will be the catalyst for helping to break down barriers stopping women from considering a role in engineering.”
Clearly, words are more powerful than we think. So, when writing your job ad, consider if the words and phrases you are using could have other meanings, connotations, or interpretations that may deter a particular demographic.
After all, by not doing so, you could be excluding a large portion of the talent pool, which may result in making bad hiring decisions.
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