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

Inclusive Job Ad

Written by Harry Double
Mar 10, 2020

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 - the plethora of videos, data points and articles that were shared in its honour - drew attention to one glaringly obvious way that we can better empower women to enter, and progress through, the workforce: by writing more inclusive job advertisements.

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

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

Re-write the rules (or, in this case, the job advert!)

There’s some excellent research into the role bias plays in job advertisements - with an obvious knock-on effect.

Less overall diversity amongst applicants = less diversity in shortlist/at interview stage = highly homogenous pool of candidates to select from = inherent lack of diversity in the workplace

So without further ado, here are four factors to consider when writing an advertisement which will help you avoid “gendering” and bias...

1. Adjectives are important to inclusive job ads

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

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

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

No time to write a job description?

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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 possible.

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 clearly not a great idea.

3. Excessive detail can deter

It’s a commonly thrown about statistic that men will apply for a role if they meet just 60% of the requirements, while women will only apply if they hit 100%.

Once again, 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 purely on that role’s content. As outlined above, the language used to describe a job will influence how many people and who applies - to the extent that AI tools can now predict with frightening accuracy the gender of the person who will be selected for 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 also 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 advert also starts with having a highly effective job description - something we understand can take a lot of time. If you don't have much time to write your own, feel free to use one of our free, downloadable (and editable!) job descriptions

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