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What Women Want - Writing inclusive job ads (+ example!)

Inclusive Job Ad

Written by Ruby Yeats
May 12, 2019
Submitted by Ruby Yeats on Sun, 05/12/2019 - 22:33

Maybe it's not true that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. But it certainly transpires that we read (and interpret information) in a very different intergalactic language. This is something we should keep in mind when it comes to writing (inclusive) job ads.

How about some practical tips you can action in your next recruitment effort! International Women’s Day - and the plethora of blogs, videos, data points and articles that were shared in its honour - got me to thinking about one glaringly obvious way that we recruiters can better enable women to enter, and progress through, the workforce: by writing better advertisements!

The process that male and female candidates go through, in contemplating or planning a career move, is vastly different from day one. Starting from signalling interest in outside roles, to applying for specific positions or following up on pending applications, all the way through the interview process, offer contemplation, and resignation - there’s a stark contrast between the way the majority of men and women approach the process.

Fixing the gender disparity challenges that face many ASX organisations is a complex issue - probably a little too complex for me to knock on the head in a couple of paragraphs. So, what can we do upfront to minimise barriers and broaden the pool of applicants for any given role?

Re-write the rules (or, in this case, the role advertisement!)

There’s some excellent research into the role bias plays in job advertisements - with a very obvious flow-on effect. Less overall diversity amongst applicants = less diversity in shortlist / interview stage = highly homogenous pool of candidates to select from.

So without further ado - four factors to consider when writing an advertisement, to avoid “gendering” and bias:

1. Why Adjectives are important if you really want to write an inclusive job ad

Descriptive words used to outline key responsibilities leave a lasting impression on prospective candidates. According to Harvard research, the following words import ‘masculine’ characteristics, and are likely to deter female applicants:

  • independent
  • lead’
  • competitive
  • assertive
  • determined
  • analytical

While others paint a different picture, generally increasing the female response rate:

  • responsible
  • connect
  • dedicated
  • support
  • sociable
  • conscientious

Pay attention to the adjectives you select in describing a role or associated tasks, and watch the applicants flood in.

No time to write a job description?

Download Our Templates

2.Gendered language is everywhere

Controversial, maybe - but language which specifically targets or singles out one gender can feel isolating or exclusionary to the other. Don’t speak about “man-made”, “mankind” or “manpower” if you can avoid it.

Maybe it feels like political correctness gone mad - but language has power. The language we choose and the words we use send clear signals, and excluding more than 50% of the population by a simple choice of pronoun, is not a great idea.

3. Excessive detail and bullet points deter

It’s a commonly thrown about statistic (and gained further popularity after its feature in Lean In), that men will apply for a role if they meet 60% of the requirements, while women will only apply if they hit 100%.

The reasons behind this are complex, but the remedy is simple: don’t include anything as a ‘prerequisite’ or ‘must-have’ unless it literally is. Avoid superfluous bullet points, and keep ‘key skills’ to a minimum to avoid deterring potential superstars.

4. Increased difficulty, increased hurdles

Straightforward - don’t assume who might apply for a role, based on that role’s content. As outlined above - the language used to describe a job will influence how many/who applies, to the extent that AI tools can now predict with scary accuracy the gender of the person who will win a role, based on analysis of the advertisement.

Beyond this, the content of an advertisement will also determine how much preparation job seekers think they will need, and how challenging the job would be. Not only might this deter potential job seekers - it could play on candidates’ minds as they make their way through interview process.

We've also gone one step further and  put together an example for you of a "before and after" inclusive job ad. 

writing inclusive job descriptions

Writing the perfect inclusive job ad, also starts with having a highly effective job description - something I understand can take a lot of time. If you don't have much time to write your own job description, feel free to use one of our free, downloadable (and editable!) job descriptions





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