Language is a powerful tool and one of the most common ways that discrimination is perpetuated. Gender stereotypes attached to perceived social roles can lead to biases being embedded into everyday language. And most of the time we are not aware that it is happening.
Have you ever wondered why mostly men or mostly women apply for your vacancies? If you have it could be the language you use and the way you write your job listings.* The candidates themselves are probably not aware that their response is being influenced by words they are reading.
It may well be the case that employers are actively looking to increase the number of male or female employers, but surely they want to see 100% of the talent pool before making a hiring decision.
Luckily there is an easy fix. Re-write your job ads, listings, career pages, etc. And more good news, there are plenty of online tools to help you. A quick Google search will give you lists of masculine and feminine adjectives. Another great tool is Textio www.textio.com. This not only tells you if your job listing is gender biased but also how effective and engaging it is. Gender Decoder for Job Ads is also quick and easy to use www.gender-decoder.katmatfield.com.
* There are several reasons other than purely language choice why you are seeing more male applicants to female or vice versa. HP conducted an internal study which found that women apply for jobs they are 100% qualified for and men will apply for roles they are only 60% qualified for. Again there are many explanations why this is the case but a McKinsey report commented that historically people have seen men being promoted on the bases of potential and women promoted on track record. Therefore women feel like they have to tick all of the requirements and men think they just need to tick most of them. Another easy fix; reduce the number of requirements on your job ads. Keep it to the essentials rather than your entire wish list.