Why job adverts matter if you want a diverse workforce

January 4, 2019
job adverts matter if you want a diverse workforce

Metro Bank placed a great job advertisement on Linkedin recently. It wasn’t the contents of the job that caught my eye (although that looked interesting too). It was the footnote at the bottom.

The footnote read:

Diverse teams really are the best teams. We know that candidates (especially women, research tells us) may be put off applying for a job unless they can tick every box. We also know that ‘normal’ office hours aren’t always doable, and while we can’t accommodate every flexible working request we are happy to be asked. So if you are excited about working with us and think you can do much of what we are looking for but aren’t sure if you are 100% there yet… why not give it a whirl? Good luck!

It’s one of the best job ads I’ve read because it felt sincere.

Are organisations serious about diversity?

Employers say they want more diverse workforces. However, I often question whether this is really the case? Research tells us diverse teams are better for decision-making and have a positive impact on the bottom line. But job advertisements and the way organisations are structured haven’t particularly changed in order to make diversity happen.

Working hours, childcare costs and the gender pay gap detract women from the workforce. We are also seeing women self-selecting themselves out of the equation before they even apply for a role or feel they don’t have a right to be there.

Job ads are putting them off.

Why the language of job adverts matter if you want a diverse workforce

Research shows women will only apply for a role where they meet all of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. This research is widely quoted, yet job advertisements continue to be written in a way that actively discourage women from applying.

Texito, a US-based augmented writing software company uses artificial intelligence to review job descriptions. They look for masculine and feminine language and provide alternatives to words that their data shows deters women from applying. Their data highlights certain phrases like ‘manage a team’ as appealing more to men than women. Conversely, ‘develop a team’ attracts many more female candidates. They also highlight that words such as stakeholder are a barrier to ethnic minorities. After Australian company Atlassian used their software to rewrite their job advertisements, they increased the number of women in technical roles by 80% within two years.

If organisations are serious about diversifying their workforce, then they must understand that language matters. It matters within workplaces, boardrooms and when recruiting new hires.

It’s not enough to say women must become bolder when applying for roles – if we’re serious about changing the workforce, we need to speak to them directly. Job adverts matter if you want a diverse workforce.

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