Gender Bias In Job Descriptions

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Gender Bias In Job Descriptions

The job market, though still evolving and growing in diversity, still faces a subtle barrier to true inclusivity - gender bias in job descriptions. This barrier to equality shows gender bias and requires awareness to rethink how roles are currently framed.

Gender bias job descriptions often go unnoticed in today's world but they still play a key role in shaping applicants' perception of their qualifications and fit for certain roles and limit employer's access to qualified talent.

We'll cover different types of gender bias in job descriptions in a moment, but first, let's talk about their impact. Gender bias in the workplace reinforces an ideology of traditional gender roles and leads to the underrepresentation of certain genders and non-binary individuals in fields with high demand. Gender bias job descriptions can show up in many forms:

  1. Gendered language - This refers to the use of words and phrases that are traditionally associated with a specific gender. For example, using "aggressive" or "assertive" for male-dominated roles and "supportive" or "compassionate" for female-dominated roles.
  2. Stereotypes - Job descriptions may also include stereotypical qualities or characteristics that are associated with a certain gender. This can limit the pool of applicants and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
  3. Masculine or feminine-coded words - Certain words are considered to be more masculine or feminine, depending on societal norms and expectations. For example, using "rockstar" or "ninja" in job descriptions may appeal more to men, while using "collaborative" or "nurturing" may appeal more to women.
  4. Implicit bias - This is a type of bias that exists in our subconscious and can unconsciously affect the way we perceive and evaluate individuals. It can lead to assumptions about an individual's abilities or fit for a role based on their gender.

A recent study showed that gender-biased job descriptions can drive lower applications by up to 7% in female applicants. Due to these discoveries, many organizations are starting to use neutral language and tools to detect biased language, moving toward more inclusive job posts.

Pillar offers a full array of interview intelligence solutions to help you eliminate biases from your hiring process, check out, "Top 5 Ways Organizations Are Measuring The Success of Their DEI Strategy" to learn more about we're helping our customers measure their impact and increase diverse hiring by 42%.

Gender Bias Language In Job Descriptions

When discussing gender bias in job description examples, it's important to uncover how subtle language choices drastically influence, a candidate's perception of the role before deciding whether or not to apply. Words like "competitive" and "dominant" in a job description may inadvertently convince women that the role is not suitable for them, while words like "nurturing" or "supportive" may discourage men from applying. If you're trying to build an inclusive workplace, these gender-specific terms pose red flags in job descriptions trying to attract a broad range of talent. In general, uses of gender bias language in job descriptions perpetuate stereotypes, narrow the diversity of thought and experience, and limit the company's ability to build an inclusive workplace.

We've seen the emergence of terms like "rockstar," "ninja," and "guru" to describe desirable job qualities. These terms seem harmless, but they convey a specific message that may be unfavorable to your talent acquisition strategy. Instead, consider using gender-neutral words like "expert" or "leader" that convey a level of proficiency rather than a persona. This also works conversely with terms like "empathic" and "caring" which can be seen as more feminine-coded words. Instead, consider using adjectives like "effective" and "efficient" that convey a similar meaning without limiting the applicant pool.

How To Avoid Gender Bias Words In Job Descriptions

Identifying red flags in job descriptions should be a primary consideration for both job seekers and employers. Descriptive phrases that suggest a candidate must fit into a young and dynamic team could also intersect with gender bias terms suggesting ageism and eliminate a portion of your applicant pool.

It's also worth noting that these phrases impact different individuals differently and it's important to have inclusive hiring practices that take all aspects into consideration. To avoid gender bias language in job descriptions, employers should:

Consider using skills-based terms like "strategic" and "analytical" to describe the job instead of personality-based terms or terms as we mentioned in the last section, "effective" and "efficient." Other words that would be helpful to expand your talent pool are "proficient in (specific platforms, solutions, or tools)" This relies on the candidate's experience with a solution rather than the persona they embody.

Avoid using gendered pronouns like "he" or "she." Instead, use gender-neutral pronouns like "they" or restructure sentences to avoid them altogether.

A great example of a gender-neutral job description for an Account Executive (AE) would be: "The ideal candidate will have experience in SaaS sales as well as strong communication and problem-solving skills." This description doesn't limit the role to a specific gender and focuses on relevant job skills.

In the next section we're going to cover counteracting these gender-biased terms and give you actionable steps to overcome them, but for the moment, let's reiterate the potential impact on your overall employee acquisition strategy. The consequences of using these gender-biased terms in today's world where workforce shortages across many industries are an unfortunate reality, will likely have a wider impact on your ability to attract and retain talent.

Many industries are struggling to find talent and report that they may be short-qualified employees by up to 70% or more over the next decade. Using gender-neutral and skills-specific terms in your job descriptions can close the gap and give you access to a wider pool of talent to close some of these gaps and put great people to work!

Counteracting Gender Bias - Steps And Strategies

Counteracting gender bias in job descriptions is not just a matter of political correctness (PC); it's a strategic step towards creating an inclusive brand that attracts a diverse and talented workforce. To remove gender bias from job descriptions, companies must first conduct thorough reviews of their current job posting and the descriptions for roles to identify language that can subtly discourage applicants from a significant portion of their potential applicant pool.

Counteracting Gender Bias Steps and Strategies:

The first and easiest actionable step is to utilize gender-neutral language throughout the job description. Terms that end in "man;" like "salesman" or "chairman" can easily be replaced with "salesperson" or "chairperson" - which can go a long way in making job descriptions more inclusive.

Next, use frameworks like LinkedIn's "How can you make your job description more inclusive?" guide to write great job descriptions. This is a super simple way to review the role requirements you're including in your job description, switch any gendered terms with neutral ones, highlight diversity and inclusion in your workforce and talent acquisition strategies, and avoid jargon and acronyms that can discourage a wide and diverse applicant pool to apply. LinkedIn's article also includes a great section on getting feedback and improving your job descriptions so you stay vigilant when it comes to removing gendered terms.

Another great step is to implement software and tools that will eliminate bias from your hiring processes. Tools like Textio, which can scan job descriptions for language bias and suggests alternatives, Pillar (our shameless plug) which can create gender-neutral interview guides with structured interview questions and use interview intelligence to identify where bias may show up in  your interviews, and others like Talent Sonar or GapJumpers are all great options to start with. These solutions can help ensure that gendered job descriptions are caught early and don't have an impact on your hiring processes.

Another thing to consider; is aligning job descriptions with company values. If your company is committed to diversity and inclusion, then your job descriptions should reflect that. Be intentional in highlighting the values you practice as a company and how they align with the role you're hiring for. This can attract candidates who share these values and encourage them to apply.

Finally, solicit feedback from a diverse group internally. A diverse group of employees can give valuable feedback and insights into how the language used might be perceived by different people. Their feedback can be invaluable in fine-tuning the language you use publicly in job descriptions to ensure it resonates well with a broad audience, further removing the possibility of gender bias from job descriptions. They can also suggest other terms that may be a better fit.

As an additional step to gathering internal insights, involve managers in the job description writing process. Managers and hiring teams will have a ground-level knowledge of what skills and qualifications are actually needed for the role, which can help in crafting more accurate and inclusive job descriptions.

In conclusion, implementing these steps and strategies will create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all applicants, increase the diversity of your workforce, and ultimately lead to better business results. While the removal of gender bias from job descriptions may seem like a small and insignificant step, nothing could be further from the truth. Imagine the impact of increasing your talent pool by anywhere from 7- 50% or even more, just by making a few simple changes in your job descriptions. It's definitely worth the effort. Let's work together to create positive change in the hiring process and make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to excel in their chosen field.

If you're creating a fair and unbiased hiring process and would like to see how interview intelligence can have a huge impact, increasing diversity hiring by up to 42%, book a demo of Pillar today!