Women put off applying for jobs with 'male-sounding words' in the advert

The wording of an employment ad can be a crucial factor in whether a job goes to a woman or a man – as women tend not to apply to jobs using male-sounding words, according to a new study.

The wording of an employment advert may be a crucial factor in whether a job goes to a woman or a man – as women tend not to apply to jobs using male-sounding words, according to a new study.

The study from the Technische Universität München (TUM) found women were less likely to respond to ads containing frequently used words like “determined” and “assertive” because such words are associated with male stereotypes. It studied how leaders are selected and assessed and found that there is no truth in the idea that leaders are more successful if they regularly show anger toward their team.

The researchers showed some 260 people fictional employment ads. These included, for example, a place on a training programme for potential management positions. If the advertisement described a large number of traits associated with men, the women found it less appealing and were less inclined to apply. Such traits include being “assertive”, “independent”, “aggressive” and “analytical”. Women found words like “dedicated”, “responsible”, “conscientious” and “sociable” more appealing. For men, on the other hand, the wording of the job advertisement made no difference.

“A carefully-formulated job posting is essential to get the best choice of personnel,” says Professor Claudia Peus who led the study. “In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to simply leave out all of the male-sounding phrases. But without a profile featuring at least balanced wording, organisations are robbing themselves of the chance of attracting good female applicants. And that’s because the stereotypes endure almost unchanged in spite of all of the societal transformation we have experienced.”

The scientists demonstrated in conjunction with a team from New York University that traditional perception patterns do apply, not least in respect of leaders. In a survey of around 600 Americans of both genders, respondents considered women and men to be equally competent, productive and efficient on a basic level. However, they rated men’s leadership skills more highly. Not only that: the women believed themselves and other women, on average, less capable in this area than the male respondents perceived themselves and others of their gender.

The researchers also showed more than 500 people videos or scenarios, in words and pictures, of a leader summarising a bad business year to employees. The leaders showed either anger, sadness or no emotion. The results shows that people are likely to be less loyal to angry managers and would be more likely not to support them than those managers who expressed sadness or no emotion. 





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