Gender Bias begins before an applicant is hired

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It has been reported that gender bias starts before a candidate is hired. The use of gender-biased wording in advertising decreases the likelihood of job applications from female candidates.

According to the results from a study of 77,000 job advertisements, sex discrimination in the workplace can start from an earlier stage than anyone could imagine. The results also showed that 478,175 words are believed to carry a gender bias.

Among the adverts reviews, 10% of contrast ads and 10% of sales and management ads are believed to use male-biased language. Gender biased language is often used to describe “alpha male” roles. The type of language used for these roles is used to prevent people who didn’t fit with the job description from applying. The most commonly used male-based words in adverts are: lead, competitive, confident and active.

On the other hand, 87% of social care roles and 67% of admin roles are more likely to use female-biased language. These type of job roles used words such as: understanding, support, dependable and committed. These words are more likely to be associated with women than men.

Biased language can also be used in different ways. For example, a job description that asks for applicants who are ‘experienced’ or ‘mature’ would suggest the organisation is looking to hire an older person. Also, a job description that asks for applicants who are ‘dynamic’ would suggest the employer is looking to hire a younger person.

From the information founded from the study, it is clear how easy it is to be biased or unintentionally use language that you would come across as being biased. It’s important that biased language is removed from job adverts, so employers can choose the right candidate for the job. It can be very damaging to certain people as it could put off females applying for senior roles.

A different study conducted in 2014 by Hewlett-Packard found that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas males will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria. This shows that the biased language used holds females from applying for certain job roles. This shouldn’t be the case as not only are women missing out on potential opportunities but employers are missing out on talented candidates.

It’s extremely important that employers don’t directly or indirectly discriminate against anyone because of their sex, age, religion, race or because they have a disability when drafting job descriptions. It isn’t against the law to use gender biased language however, employers should be careful they don’t consciously or subconsciously believe a job role should be filled by a particular gender.

Employers could also look to create a truly inclusive workplace. An inclusive workplace helps to increase workforce talent, contributions, innovation and creativity. To create this, employers need to address the root causes of inequality from reducing bias and increasing transparency in recruitment, promotional processes and appraisals.

If you would like some guidance or advice on preventing gender-biased language or preventing sex discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with a member of the oneHR team!


Phone: 0845 509 6854

Tweet: @oneHR_


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