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Gender bias still prevalent in job ads

A surprising number of job ads still contain language that tends to attract either male or female candidates, but not both, according to a diversity recruitment expert.

Gender-neutral role profiles are the gateway to effective diversity recruiting, but progress on this journey has been slow, says Testgrid director and diversity advocate Dina Ward.

She still sees job ads that use 'he' or 'she' pronouns to describe an ideal candidate, and notes that less obvious discriminatory language is commonplace.

"While those explicit references have mostly disappeared from the landscape, the gender of the ideal candidate is still conveyed in a more subtle way by using wording that reflects the more broader cultural stereotypes about men and women."

Phrases such as 'aggressive customer acquisition', 'determination to succeed' and 'desire to provide superior customer experience', are examples of strong leading words that Ward says could generally be described as masculine.

These words will signal to candidates the type of culture an organisation has and the type of candidate it is looking for, while using softer or more 'caring' language such as 'looking for someone to provide excellent customer service', 'to be responsive to customer needs', or 'to work with a dedicated team', panders more to women, she says.

From a recruitment process point of view, the best way to address this is to do an overhaul of role profiling, as people who have been in those roles for a very long time have written many of these job descriptions, says Ward.

Due to time restraints, employers tend to recycle job descriptions over and over again without giving this too much thought, she adds, but communicating the right messages about diversity in job ads is likely to attract more candidates.

Prepare for questions about diversity

An increasing number of candidates are asking potential employers about their commitment to diversity in the workplace, a development that can catch unprepared recruiters off-guard and send a poor message about the company, Ward told Shortlist.

"Both men and women are now actively asking questions about the company's diversity targets and efforts, their pay equality and initiatives, and flexibility... because they're important to everyone."

In her experience working with clients and also in terms of Testgrid's internal recruitment practices, candidates are increasingly asking the question 'how do you demonstrate your commitment to diversity?', which Ward says can be quite confronting.

By asking these questions, candidates are telling recruiters they are looking beyond an organisation's marketing to discover what specific steps and strategies it has in place to increase diversity, she says.

It's one thing to use gender-neutral language in job ads, but recruiters should also be ready to address the issues that people care about, such as flexible working arrangements and efforts to tackle pay inequality, she adds.

A fresh pair of eyes

Recruiters can benefit from an outsider's perspective of their job profiles to make them more gender-neutral, Ward says.

Further into the recruitment process, using diverse interview panels, and mixing them up as much as possible to ensure more representation among people doing interviewing, is also crucial, she says.

Seeking out people from different parts of the business to review the candidate is essential, because a team of two or three people from a recruitment department will fall into the traps of their own unconscious bias, notes Ward.

Not only is this good in terms of decision making, it's also signalling to candidates the organisation is serious about diversity, she says.

Article courtesy of Shortlist.