TUESDAY 10 JUL 2018 1:32 PM


Diversity is a critical part of any 21st century workplace. By strengthening key attributes such as acceptance, respect and teamwork, diversity fosters a productive and healthy culture in the workplace. However, while companies strive to reap the benefits of diversity, they may be unintentionally discouraging female candidates with something as simple as the wrong word choice.

Job adverts are a direct line of communication between a company and a potential employee. When crafting a job advert, choosing what words to use can affect what kind of applicants apply. The wrong word choice can signal that a particular work environment is hostile for female employees and leave women feeling unwelcome.

A study conducted in 2011 by American and Canadian researchers reveals that common words used in job descriptions can convey gender preferences. Words such as "competitive" or "leader" are usually associated with male stereotypes, while words such as "supportive" and "interpersonal" are associated with female stereotypes.

Even action-oriented phrases such as “manage a team” can discourage women from applying for a certain position. When MIT economists have found that changing from an all-male or an all-female office to one split evenly along gender lines could increase revenue by 41%, the stakes for attracting a diverse variety of candidates get higher.

Principal associate at the Institute for Employment Studies in Sussex, Dr Wendy Hirsh, says, "There is a growing awareness in the UK to be inclusive. Employers realise, with the rise of a skill shortage here, that if you skew a job ad to only one group of applicants, you could be missing out on some very talented workers."

Tech companies such as Textio and TalVista can change the composition of a workplace by editing job adverts. As an augmented writing software Textio uses artificial intelligence to analyze job descriptions. After highlighting any gendered terms or phrases, Textio suggests alternative terms.

Working in a similar manner, TalVista, another software company, evaluates job descriptions and highlights discouraging terms in red and encouraging terms in green, assigning an overall thumb up or thumb down score to the text.

While tech companies leave no room for uncertainty and uncover biases that are otherwise indistinguishable, William Tincup, an HR tech consultant and president of recruitment news outlet RecruitingDaily.com, cautions brands to not overuse such software since overly editing job adverts can strip them of individuality and leave potential employees bored.

While Tincup remains wary, he nonetheless supports such services as "they're trying to solve a problem that hasn't exactly been solved, because these days so many people just cut-and-paste job descriptions, from one to the next."