How to Remove Gender Bias From Your Job Descriptions Once and for All

Published by:
Shirwac Dirir
March 4, 2019
min read

Inclusive Job Description Template

The more diverse your workforce is, the better your company will perform. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. Here’s how to remove gender bias from your job descriptions.

Remove Gender Bias from Your Job Descriptions Once and for All

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times – a company with a diverse workforce will perform better than a homogeneous business, and diverse environments promote more innovative outcomes. The facts are irrefutable. Surely achieving success, growth, and profits are the main aims for any employer worth their salt?

It’s fair to say that employees also want these goals alongside plenty of cake, bottomless coffee, and weekly go-karting. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to remove any bias from your next job description, ensuring you find the perfect new addition to your dream team.

Remove Gendered Words

It’s something that few people think about but there are certain words that are gendered and imply a gender for the role you’re advertising. Terms you might throw into a job description to make it sound more exciting, such as ‘guru’, ‘hacker’, or even ‘rockstar’ for the more flamboyant descriptions, can, in fact, reduce the number of applications you receive. This is because these terms are perceived as masculine, and therefore geared towards a male candidate, in turn, reducing the number of female applications.

Terms such as ‘competitive’ and ‘dominant’ also have masculine perceptions reducing the diversity of applicants further, as well as making the application process sound more like a Hunger Games scenario: “ten applicants begin, only one will remain”. Instead, use terms such as ‘project manager’, ‘engineer’, or ‘consultant’ which accurately describe the role, but remove any implication of gender. This has been a pervasive problem for a while across many cultures, but through inclusive language, the imbalances can be alleviated.

However, this can go both ways. Just as some words have masculine connotations, there are others which have feminine connotations that can put off male applicants in kind. Avoiding use of these terms and words will create a far more level playing field for your potential candidates, so you can pick from the best.

A list of gendered words and phrases that you may wish to avoid when crafting your job description can be found at the end of this social psychology study.

Checking Pronouns

This is a quick and easy fix: simply remove gendered pronouns from the job description and insert non-gendered pronouns. Who could have guessed promoting equality was so simple? Use terms such as ‘you’, ‘they’, or perhaps stretching to ‘s/he’ when describing an ideal candidate for a role. Removing pronouns means you’re inclusive of all potential applicants, which will allow you to select from a wider range of candidates and increase your chances of hiring the best person. That’s exactly what we want!

Remove Superlatives

For complex and historical reasons far too numerous and complex to get into in a simple blog post, many cultural norms promote the notions of modesty and not bragging. Particularly for women. Studies have shown that women are less likely to brag or exaggerate any of their personal accomplishments when compared to men, but are also seen in a more negative manner when they do discuss their accomplishments.

By removing superlative phrases and words from a job description you’ll actually end up encouraging a wider group of people to apply for the role. Yes, we all want to employ someone who is flawless, superb, prodigious, first-rate, formidable, unique, and unsurpassed, but these styles of words will put people off applying. Superlatives are completely redundant, superfluous, unnecessary lexicon which pleasingly leads us fittingly into our subsequent section...

Reduce Your Requirements

It can be very tempting to list dozens of things you want from the ideal candidate, but this is, in fact, restricting the number of people applying to your position. It has been documented that women will not apply for a position unless they believe they are 100% qualified. The more boxes you ask to tick, the fewer people can tick all those boxes. The fewer people ticking boxes, the fewer applications you receive. This results in a heavily depleted selection of potential employees. You want the best? You need to cast your net far and wide.

Edit down your job description to the key ‘must haves’ for candidates and remove the things you consider desirable. Yes, it would be amazing to have someone in the office that can teach blindfolded unicycling, but it’s probably not essential. This will encourage far more potential employees to send over their details and allow you to work with a larger pool of applicants.

It has also been shown that more succinct, simpler, easy to read job descriptions receive a far greater number of applications. Sometimes less is more!

Promote Equality and Diversity

One of the simplest and most effective ways to encourage a wider demographic of applicants is to state your commitment to an equal and diverse workplace. It doesn’t need to be anything too fancy, it can just be a short sentence at the end of the job description – something even Jeff Bezos did on the first Amazon job description. Not only does this advertise the role to a wider group of people who may otherwise rule themselves out of the position, but it promotes the benefits of your workplace. It demonstrates to all candidates that you intend to make the work environment a happy and friendly one.

Intrigued as to how your job descriptions would perform under gendered scrutiny? Check out our Job Description Analysis Tool and see for yourself. If you'd like to add another one of our tools to your arsenal, we've collected data from over 100,000 applications to find the best job boards for women, so you can be proactive in creating a gender-balanced talent pool.