Gendered job ad language discouraging women

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​​Organisations could be losing out on talent because of the language they use in job adverts, according to LinkedIn

Its research found that as many as 40% of UK talent professionals would never consider gender when writing job adverts, while 44% do not track or measure the gender their job posts are appealing to most.

However, it found that women respond differently to certain words in the hiring process. More than half (52%) of UK women said they would be put off a role if it was described as ‘aggressive’ (compared to 32% of men), and a quarter (24%) would be discouraged by the term ‘born leader’ (compared to 18% of men). Additionally, 26% would be put off by the word ‘demanding’ (compared to 17% of men).

There was also a disparity between how the term 'soft skills' was viewed by men and women. Sixty-two per cent of women found this to have feminine connotations, while 52% of men thought it referred to male traits.

Talent professionals should also consider which benefits they highlight in job adverts and interviews, the research suggested. Salary was found to be prized most by both men and women, but women rank additional benefits such as annual leave allowance (61% compared to 48% of men) and flexible working (54% compared to 37% of men) much higher.

The research also revealed a disconnect between what men and women perceive as acceptable language and behaviour in the workplace. If a male colleague talked over them in a meeting 31% of women would describe him as ‘condescending’, compared to just 17% of men who would feel the same if another man did this.

Additionally, 44% of UK women have been described as ‘nice’ at work compared to just 28% of men.

Janine Chamberlin, director of talent solutions at LinkedIn UK, said that employers must pay greater attention to their language in job adverts as they compete for talent. “This research highlights just how important it is to understand the nuances in how men and women interact in both the hiring process and the workplace," she said.

“In today’s competitive job landscape – with unemployment at its lowest level for decades – talent professionals need to be deliberate with the words they are using in job adverts, interviews, social media and in the workplace itself if they wish to attract, build and retain diverse teams.”

Rosie Campbell, professor of politics and director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King's College London, said that employers need to be mindful of gendered language if they are to attract the right talent.

Getting the wording of an advert right can be key to attracting the right candidate. Previous experiments have demonstrated that the use of certain types of masculine-coded language reduces the likelihood that women will respond to advertisements,” she said.

Pointing to previous academic research, Campbell added that, while improvements to language have been made over time, the problem remains particularly prevalent in senior positions: “While analysis of LinkedIn data elsewhere suggests that the use of gender-skewed language has decreased over time, unfortunately it is relatively more common as the positions advertised rise in seniority."

Censuswide surveyed 12,122 full-time employees and 3,106 individuals involved in hiring processes on behalf of LinkedIn.

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