Are your position descriptions biased?
Mar 04 2020

Are Your Position Descriptions Biased?

By Jade Bennett.

Diversity in Tech is a widely discussed topic, and has been for some time now with businesses becoming acutely aware of the many benefits that come from having a diverse and inclusive workplace.

As tech recruitment specialists it’s exciting to witness first hand, the growth in companies committed to diversity. At Middleton Executive we’re seeing more businesses develop both enterprise-wide and grassroots initiatives in an effort to attract more women to the workplace.

Mind your language

This progress is encouraging. But we’re still seeing the use of interesting language in position descriptions, job advertisements and interview questions. Language that inevitably and unintentionally results in women opting out of the process. Language that hinders their opportunity to be considered favourably or fairly.

For the most part, this is unconscious bias. It’s the language people have been accustomed to using and how roles have been positioned within organisations historically. Descriptive language that gets used to make a business or a role sound cool and appealing, such as:

‘Do you want to work in a fast-paced, high powered start-up unicorn?’

‘Are you an expert with all things Product/ AWS/ Node’ (you get the gist)?’

Or how about…

‘If you’d like to finish your day with a kick-ass game of table tennis and a cold
beer, this is the role for you’.

You may very well be deterring women from applying if you’re using anything along these lines.

How you engage your audience and the language you use to describe your work environment or a job role has a huge impact on who will apply to work with you. To encourage more females to apply, we highly recommend you consider the language you use.

Improving diversity one word at a time

Here are my four tips on how you can modify your language to engage and attract more women to apply for your tech jobs:

1. We don’t need “rockstars” or “unicorns”

Masculine words such as these are generally unappealing to women who, for the most part, don’t go around calling themselves a “ninja”, “rockstar” or “unicorn”. Masculine words also imply a masculine culture, which may not only dissuade females, but also other minority groups – diversity isn’t just about gender after all. Your job descriptions and ads can still sound cool, but try using words with a more diverse and inclusive tone.

2. Use language that highlights your culture

Women typically look for organisations that promote collaboration and teamwork over self-service and lone wolf stereotypes. This is something you’ll need to incorporate in your language if you’re truly committed to attracting more females to your workplace.

3. Be flexible on your requirements

Women typically only apply for roles when they feel they meet 100% of the criteria. Whereas men typically will apply even if they only meet 50-60% of the criteria, as evidenced by various research. I’m not suggesting you lower the bar, quite the opposite in fact. But you will go a long way if you simply remain open-minded with your essential requirements. Including the balance of a few essential skills (such as previous software engineering experience required across the Java stack), AND including the desirable skills (such as React or Nodejs, for example), could be a way to achieve this. Also, including tributes of the type of behaviours you are seeking, such as ‘problem solver, etc., will go a long way to attracting more females in tech.

4. Promote your ‘family friendly’ policies

Many companies now have great ‘family friendly’ work policies such as remote working, flexible hours, fair and equitable parental leave policies. Make sure you include these in your job adverts. This is one of the main questions females in tech ask us when we’re speaking with them.

Long story short

There isn’t a magic fix to improving diversity in tech, and the recruitment process requires a multi-pronged approach. But analysing and fine-tuning the language you use in job descriptions and advertising is a sure-fire way to ensure you are appealing to more females

Assisting businesses to overcome their diversity in tech challenges is a passion of ours at Middleton Executive, and something we are commit to for all of our customer relationships. If you’d like to know more about how we partner with our clients to ensure they’re getting a rich representation of the community we serve, connect with us today.

If you’ve got a story or case study you’d like to share with our team, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us here:

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