Gender Bias Has an Effect on Applicants


Research has informed us time and time again that organizations with a diverse workforce have better business results than a homogeneous environment. Diversity promotes more innovation which leads to increased organizational performance. Having a diverse workforce alone does not magically produce better results, inclusion and equity are imperative to achieving this. However, the starting point is a diverse workforce.

One aspect of diversity is gender. Many organizations have a goal of increasing gender diversity and tend to be confused when the results don’t show any changes. The first thing potential employees see is the job posting. The gender biased wording in your job postings may be the first point for an applicant to feel as if they don' belong in your organization.

Words are usually thought to be masculine or feminine in languages other than English (Spanish, Latin, etc.). It is truly the context of the English words that give a masculine or feminine tone.  Terms you sometimes put into a job posting to make it sound more exciting, such as “rockstar", "expert", or "competitive" 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. Additionally, the use of terms perceived as feminine such as, “nurturing”, “supportive” and “committed” can reduce the number of male applicants for a position.

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Even after the job postings are updated with gender neutral language, there may still be other issues. One of which being the number of requirements/qualifications a candidate must have in order to be considered for the position. Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them (Mohr, 2014). Identify which requirements are “nice to have” versus “must have” and eliminate the “nice-to-haves.” This is a process much like buying a house: some things are absolutely necessary based on family size, budget, and lifestyle, and some things are part of the wish list and would be a nice added perk.

Another way to think of this when looking to hire, is to examine what skills (setting aside licensing and credentials based on governing body requirements) must a person have in order to perform the job. Then, think about what duties of the position can be taught.

Paying attention to gender biases in job postings can go a long way in increasing the number of applicants. Organizations can develop a process for internal review of job postings and/or use online resources like Gender Decoder for Job Ads. By making some small changes, more potential applicants will be able to see themselves in the organization and feel more inclined to apply.

To learn more about preventing gender bias, connect with Kesha Carter, CCSI Chief Diversity Officer. Check out our flyer for more about building diversity and inclusion for organizational growth.