Use gender neutral language in job descriptions
A study conducted by Total Jobs illustrated how the language of job descriptions and adverts potentially impacts diversity. 76,929 job ads were analysed over six weeks to evaluate how often gender-coded words were used. “Within these 77,000 job adverts, we found 478,175 words which carry gender bias. This is an average of six male-coded or female-coded words per job advert”. Gendered word analysis was based on academic findings from The University of Waterloo and Duke University who worked to define a series of words which had social and cultural weight towards a specific gender.
The language used in a job description is therefore incredibly important. Superlatives that are seen as male-orientated, such as ‘superior’, ‘competitive’ and ‘world-class’, can inadvertently discourage women from applying. Research shows that women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100% of the criteria whilst men will apply if they meet 60% (HBR, Why women don’t apply for jobs). Using more gender neutral words, including using they/them pronouns as opposed to he or she, can help to create a more inclusive job description.
Actively training all employees involved in the recruitment process, including those who define the job descriptions, shortlist applicants, interview, and make the final decision, helps to embed diversity into the hiring process.
At interview ask questions on various skillsets
According to McKinsey there are up to 56 skills that will help us all thrive in the future of work. It’s unrealistic to expect any candidate to possess all of these skills; but identifying and focusing on the skills a candidate does have can help in being gender neutral when interviewing prospective employees.
To ensure a range of skillsets are considered during the interview, questions should reflect a variety of skills-based questions. These can include communication, emotional intelligence, and creativity, alongside those which could be regarded as predominantly male. In their paper ‘Negotiating Gender Roles’, Emily T. Amanatullah and Michael W. Morris, of Harvard Kennedy School, surmised that males report higher frequencies of assertive behaviour than females. The more inclusive the questions, the easier it is to refrain from gender bias.