Talent Acquisition

10 Ways to Remove Gender Bias from Job Descriptions


The newest report from Glassdoor Economic Research, “The Pipeline Problem: How College Majors Contribute to the Gender Pay Gap revealed that nine of the 10 highest paying majors we examined are male dominated. By contrast, 6 of the 10 lowest-paying majors are female dominated.

If females and males sort into majors and subsequently careers that have such a wide pay gap, how can we achieve gender equality in the workplace? When research shows that gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely outperform those that are not, it’s certainly to your company’s benefit to focus on building more gender diverse teams. Your company’s placement of professionals in those teams sets the example for future generations, and the first place to start is with hiring.

The most visible aspect of hiring that influences the makeup of your candidate pool is your job descriptions. In job descriptions, words are your primary tool, and academic research has shown that many common words used in job descriptions have male or female associations. Simply put, the words you use in job descriptions could be repelling or attracting candidates based on their gender. The most qualified candidates may not apply to your open roles because they are turned off by the language that you use.

An obvious example of language that can turn women off is “bro-speak:” language emphasizes an aggressive, beer-drinking, foosball-oriented culture. In the same vein, a job description that includes the overused cliche “work hard, play hard” could be interpreted as a culture that entails frequent after-hours drinking, potentially turning off women and parents.

Follow these ten tips to remove the gender bias from your job descriptions:

1.) Use gender neutral titles.

Male-oriented titles can inadvertently prevent women from clicking on your job in a list of search results. Avoid including words in your titles like “hacker,” “rockstar,” “superhero,” “guru,” and “ninja,” and use neutral, descriptive titles like “engineer,” “project manager,” or “developer.”

2.) Check pronouns.

When describing the tasks of the ideal candidate, use “S/he” or “you.” Example: “As Product Manager for XYZ, you will be responsible for setting the product vision and strategy.”

3.) Avoid (or balance) your use of gender-charged words.

Analysis from language tool Textio found that the gender language bias in your job posting predicts the gender of the person you’re going to hire. Use a tool like Textio tool or the free Gender Decoder to identify problem spots in your word choices. Examples: “Analyze” and “determine” are typically associated with male traits, while “collaborate” and “support” are considered female. Avoid aggressive language like “crush it.”

4.) Avoid superlatives.

Excessive use of superlatives such as “expert,” “superior,” “world class” can turn off female candidates who are more collaborative than competitive in nature. Research also shows that women are less likely than men to brag about their accomplishments. In addition, superlatives related to a candidate’s background can limit the pool of female applicants because there may be very few females currently in leading positions at “world class” firms.

5.) Limit the number of requirements.

Identify which requirements are “nice to have” versus “must have, and eliminate the “nice to haves.” Research shows that women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100 percent of the requirements, while men will apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements.

6.) Reconsider your major requirements.

Listing a specific major as a requirement can limit the number of applicants one gender or the other. Because Glassdoor Economic Research found that choice of college major can vary by gender, you may be limiting your candidate pool by unnecessarily requiring completion of a specific degree.

7.) Express your commitment to equality and diversity.

Candidates want to know they’ll be welcome in your culture before they make the effort to apply. A simple statement toward the end of your job description lets candidates know that you intend to make the workplace a friendly one. In addition, you can take the Equal Pay Pledge on Glassdoor.

8.) Let your values shine.

If your company values are well-defined and promote diversity, infuse the concepts into your job descriptions, or list them out.

9.) Promote volunteer and employee activities.

If your company offers volunteer opportunities with organizations like Girls Who Code, female-friendly employee resource groups, or a mentorship program, let candidates know.

10.) State your family-friendly benefits.

Parental leave, flextime, and child care subsidies benefit families and your future base of employees. Let candidates know what you offer.

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