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Competitive Tech Ninja Wanted: Females Need Not Apply

Competitive Tech Ninja Wanted:  Females Need Not Apply

Interested in recruiting top female engineers?  It could come down to your choice of words.

Research points to a downturn in the number of women seeking careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  A study from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) points out that women represent only 12 percent of engineers, and their participation in the computing workforce has declined to 26 percent, from 35 percent in 1990.

While the reasons are complex, part of the equation is hiring bias.  Across industries, women continue to be considered less competent, less hirable, and are less likely to receive mentoring opportunities than their similarly-skilled male counterparts.  Some other disturbing inequalities across the workforce include:

  • Equally qualified women earn 80 percent of what men make
  • The pay gap is worse with age, motherhood, and for women of color
  • More education increases earning, but does not impact the gap
  • The smallest pay gap is in New York, while the largest is in Wyoming, where women are paid approximately 69 percent of what similarly skilled men earn

Clearly, there are problems.  While the pay gap is expected to be with us until 2152, hiring bias can be dealt with more readily.  One way to impact your number of female recruits and candidates could be right in front of you in black and white—your job descriptions.

Gender bias in job descriptions

The competition for high quality talent is real.  Brightmove develops and delivers specialized recruiting and onboarding software to help you fill open positions and retain valuable workers.  The impression made by your job description could give you access to, or shut the door on, talented women who may be the right hire for you.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology started a conversation about bias found in many kinds of job descriptions.  Some key findings of the study include:

  • Job descriptions can deliver institutional-level messaging on inequality
  • The impact of subtle word differences can be significant
  • Gendered wording can influence feelings of belongingness and company appeal
  • Wording impacts perceptions on diversity

The choice of spoken and written word is always important.  With no intention at all, you may be subtly influencing females in your applicant pool to look elsewhere.  Whether recruiting via job description or video, wordsmith your language for inclusivity.  Think about these tips to balance out your job postings:

  • Diversity status: Think about the value of diversity to your teams and work groups.  Creativity and productivity thrive in non-homogenous settings.  Where does your business stand? You may—or may not—already enjoy workforce balance.  If not, think about why your employees skew one direction or the other and consider whether that is a trend you want to support.
  • Recognize differences: Unrecognized gender-coded job descriptions, recruiting and marketing materials could cost your company good hires and business.  Common masculine-skewed words include challenge, dominant, driven, and  coded words skewed for females run along the lines of cooperative, collaborative, interpersonal, and enthusiastic.  High-powered, ninja, and rockstar are words not likely to appeal to top female applicants.  As a first step, take a second look at the language you use to create expectation in applicants.  Depending on what you find, consider scrubbing your current descriptions, or building on what you have.
  • The recruiting cycle: Include women in the recruiting process, from building job descriptions to interviewing candidates.  Recognize and raise the awareness of gender-coded language that trends toward males or females.  If you do not already, consider job applications without gender-identifying information, like names.  A crucial point person is the recruiter who supplies vetted talent to your company for consideration.  Draw them into the process, identify targets, and see what they suggest to improve diversity of your job advertisements and your workforce.

For tech and other positions, do not miss out on the other half of the talent pool because of gender-coded mistakes.  There are several apps and a free tool that can help you identify skewed language in job descriptions.

You never get another chance to make a first impression.  Awareness of word use can help you attract and hire the talent you seek—in any field.

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