Even before entering pre-K, we are taught how our words impact those around us. They can make us feel accepted, upset or even guarded. As adults, our vocabulary may be more advanced than a 3-year-old's, but the sentiment remains the same: words matter.
A new report by LinkedIn highlights how the language we use in the workplace incites differing responses based on gender. Over the past few years we have rightfully begun converting our job titles from gender specific titles like Stewardess and Policeman to more gender-neutral options like Flight Attendant and Police Officer. But want about the language used to describe those jobs? Are they biased towards one gender over another? According to the LinkedIn report, using words like “aggressive” or “demanding” in your job description or job posting would discourage women (44%) from applying (33% men). And although both men and women cite soft skills like communication, teamwork, creativity and time-management as a shared value of their gender, women tend to highlight their soft skills and men, their hard skills. So how do these findings impact the way we write and edit our job descriptions and job postings?
First, let’s clarify one thing. Job postings are the outward reflection of the job… like an advertisement (marketing); while job descriptions address all aspects of the job, from the essential functions and education requirements to competencies and job track. They are NOT the same thing. While job postings are more likely to include marketing language meant to attract candidates to the job and the company, job descriptions are meant to describe the job and are generally more descriptive. But because job postings derive from job descriptions, job descriptions must also utilize unbiased language.
The best way to assure that your job descriptions reflect your company culture is to include others in the writing and review process. JDXpert by HRTMS allows HR to collaborate not only with those who understand the job, but partners who may be more skilled at flagging partial language. Aside from the words used in the job description, the structure that it follows is also important. As cited earlier, women tend to showcase soft skills more so than their hard skills. Although job descriptions must include the essential functions of the jobs, it is best practice to also include critical competencies. Since competencies are more related to soft skills, the inclusion of competencies will make the job more attractive to women. There are also a number of augmented writing solutions on the market that may also be helpful in assuring the use of more gender-neutral language.
The lesson here is that if we want to attract a more gender-diverse workforce, we need to remember that all-important lesson we learned as children--that words matter. And that we must go beyond just debiasing our job titles and review the language used in and structure of our job descriptions.