A 5-step guide to gender-fluid tech job descriptions

If you are a recruiter or hiring manager in the technical recruitment space and are wondering why most men (or women) are applying for your organization’s open positions, here’s...

If you are a recruiter or hiring manager in the technical recruitment space and are wondering why most men (or women) are applying for your organization’s open positions, here’s a hint for you. Look at the language in your tech job descriptions. Chances are, the wording is more biased toward one gender than you realize. 

Whether you believe it or not, language matters and words have an impact on both genders in the workplace. According to the Language Matters report by LinkedIn: 

  • If a role or workplace was described as aggressive in a job description, 44% of women and 33% of men would be discouraged from applying
  • Both men and women reacted equally positively to being described by definitive language such as ‘powerful’, ‘strong-willed’, and ‘confident’
  • Women tend to favor subjective, ‘open’ words when being described at work. They are most likely to use terms such as ‘likable’ and ‘supportive’ to describe themselves in an interview

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recruiters from overtly soliciting a preferred gender in their job descriptions. However, research shows gender wording in tech job ads exists, which leads to gender inequality in the workplace. 

Here is a 5-step guide to creating gender-fluid tech job descriptions:

Step 1: Be mindful of your word choice

Total Jobs analyzed about 77,000 ads in the UK for gender-biased language over 6 weeks in 2017. The survey found “an average of 6 male-coded or female-coded words per job advert.

When trying to appeal to both genders in technical recruitment, avoid using gender-coded words like “wizard”, “ninja”, or “guru” and replace them with open, to-the-point words like developers or programmers (for instance). Society tends to regard these words as masculine. While these gender-coded words may make the job sound exciting, it may also dissuade women from applying.

Also, it is important to remember that it is not just skills but individual characteristics matter too. For example, research reveals that when applying for roles, women were more likely to prioritize terms that relate to their character, such as ‘likable’ and ‘supportive’.

Additionally, using words such as “powerful”, “confident”, and “strong-willed” in tech job descriptions attract both men and women. Words such as “aggressive” and “pressured” discourage both genders from applying.

job description infographic
Source: Linkedin

There are various tools available today which help recruiters and hiring managers to analyze their job descriptions. These tools let them make improvements to make the language more appealing to all candidates.

Textio claims that recruiters can reach a wider pool of candidates and fill jobs faster based on the language they use in their job descriptions. It is an augmented writing tool and can predict results based on real-time data it collects through its AI system as you write your job description.

Words in a job description

Applied is a tool that informs you of gender codes within your job descriptions. The tool allows you to copy and paste or type in your job description so that its system can detect gender coding.

Remove gender biasPS: You can find the full list of gender-biased wordings here.

Also, read 5 point guide on how to write a job description.

Step 2: Change your pronouns

A gender-inclusive or gender-neutral pronoun is a pronoun that does not associate a gender with individuals who are being discussed. Unfortunately, certain languages, such as English, do not have a gender-neutral pronoun available.

In many instances, people use “he/his” in tech job descriptions when referring to candidates in the third person. Additionally, the dichotomy of “she and he” in the English language does not leave room for other gender identities, such as transgender and genderqueer communities.

Hence, when describing the tasks of the candidate in job descriptions, use “they” or “you.” For instance, “As a front-end engineer at HackerEarth, you will be responsible for collaborating with product designers, product managers, and backend engineers to deliver compelling user-facing products.”

Removing pronouns means you’re inclusive of all potential candidates. It allows you to have access to a larger pool of applicants and increase your chances of hiring the ideal person.

PS: Here is a list of gender-neutral pronouns. 

Step 3: List down additional benefits and perks

Listing down additional perks in your tech job descriptions can benefit your organization in bringing a diverse set of candidates and proving your commitment to inclusion.

For example, research shows that women tend to actively seek out positions that describe an adaptable workplace culture: positions that promoted flexible working, working from home, and additional medical benefits.

Men tend to look for salary, annual leaves, and medical/dental coverage.

You don’t have to include every benefit. However, mentioning a few will show candidates the great work your company is doing to boost diversity and inclusion.Employee benefits and perks

Step 4: Present your values and make them shine

A great way to conclude your tech job description is by providing a short overview of your company.

This section is also an excellent place to describe your culture and how you promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Share your organization’s values, mission statement, cultural philosophy, and a link to your non-discrimination policy to attract a diverse set of applicants.

Step 5: Know the difference between “must-haves” and “nice to haves”

Research shows that men will apply for a job role if they meet 60% of the requirements while women are unlikely to apply for a job role unless they meet 100% of the job requirements. Hence, identify skills that are must-have versus nice to have, and eliminate the latter. Finding the optimal length for the job requirements section of your posting is tricky. According to experts, tech job descriptions in the range of 300 to 700 words are ideal. 

Only when you have very specific skills/content required for the position, you’re advised to write longer tech job descriptions.Also, read What’s wrong with today’s tech job descriptions?

There you have it—our 5-step guide to creating gender-fluid or gender-inclusive tech job descriptions. In case we have missed something, let us know in the comments section below or write to me at ashmita@hackerearth.com. We would love to entertain a conversation!

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