Job ads ‘still biased towards men’

New study finds job ads in many industries are still biased towards men.

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Sixty per cent of UK industries exhibit significant bias towards men in the wording used in their job ads, according to a new study.

A study by jobs site based on gendered wording in job adverts found UK job adverts use on average 17% more male than female-biased words.

Previous research suggests male-coded words such as ‘lead’ and ‘dominant’ encourage a higher number of male applicants to female applicants, whereas female-coded words such as ‘sensitive’ and ‘affectionate’ attract more female talent.

Adzuna did a search on 170 traditionally masculine and feminine words cited in the previous study within 1.2 million job adverts every year from 2014 to 2018.

Consultancy, Property, Sales, Maintenance and Travel industries were found to be the most actively discouraging towards female applicants, with each industry using 50% or more male than female-biased words in their job ads. While the Sales industry has seen some progress, falling from 84% (2014) to 50% (2018), job ads within Consultancy, Property, Maintenance and Travel industries have seen an increase in the use of male-coded words, says Adzuna. These industries now use 72%, 54%, 51% and 46% respectively more male than female-biased language.

On the contrary, the industries with the most female-biased language in job adverts in 2018 are Domestic Help & Cleaning (60%), Teaching (38%), Social Work (30%), Charity & Voluntary (27%) and Healthcare & Nursing (12%).

Gender neutral wording

The study found the most gender neutral industry in 2018 was Retail, which used 5% more female-coded words than male-coded words.

Adzuna says that since 2014, job ads in the UK have seen the usage of masculine-coded words drop by 10%, from 27% to 17% more male-to-female words. The decline has been consistent since 2015, with it falling by 13% in the last four years. It adds that this trend is echoed across all job industries within the UK, with 78% moving towards neutral wording over the last five years, and only 19% of industries in the UK becoming more male-biased in their wording.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said:  With studies showing the use of such ‘masculine’ words in job ads directly discourage female applicants and our data revealing 60% of job ads are sexist towards women by using male-biased language, UK industries need to be more conscious about language during their recruitment process.

“Gendered wording in job adverts can have the effect of supporting the gender imbalance within industries that are already perceived as being male-dominated. While it is encouraging to see a general trend towards neutral language over the past few years, several industries need to make more of an active effort to combat gender-bias within their ads in order to subliminally encourage female talent.

Unconscious bias may lead to accidental discrimination, but there is no excuse in 2019. It’s time for employers to go back to the drawing board and redesign their recruitment basics in order to keep up with the times. We’re already seeing movement being made towards gender equality when it comes to pay; why should attracting talent be any different?”

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