To improve gender equality at work, change the language of job postings

79a200f2cc2fc5caa24a72ba16ce9e33.jpeg - Women are ambitious, competitive, and dominant. Still, research shows that go-getting ladies don’t apply for jobs that advertise those requirements. Change the language of the ads and it will attract women, says Santander UK chairwoman Shriti Vadera.

It’s fashionable to put the onus on women to lean in and be more confident, the banking chief told a crowd at the FT Women at the Top conference in London on Sept. 30. But companies need to take some responsibility, too. They should, Vadera said, re-examine job posting vocabulary because certain words “can be off-putting, like using ‘ambitious,’ ‘dominant,’ and ‘competitive.'”

There is support for this claim. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013 investigated ads for jobs in traditionally male fields, like plumbing, engineering, and programming to see if they used stereotypically male words—like “competitive,” “dominate,” and “leader”—and if those words dissuaded women from applying. Researchers compared over 4,000 job ads, then they asked women to respond to the postings. They found “that masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women.” The study proposed that this phenomenon perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields, maintaining the status quo.

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