It's no secret that workplaces aren't always the most accommodating spaces for women. From gender pay gaps and sexist dress codes to antisocial working hours and a lack of flexibility, it seems as if many companies actively want to deter women. But sometimes a bias against women is clear before they step through the door.
According to research, the language used in job adverts is deterring women from applying for jobs in the first place. Words like "manage" (as opposed to "develop") and "build" (rather than "create") for instance, are more likely to encourage men to apply for jobs than women.
Tech firms are now helping companies combat their language biases. The Seattle-based "augmented writing platform" Textio promises to test the impact of words even as they're being written, and uses artificial intelligence to analyse job descriptions, flag up any potentially masculine or feminine words and recommend alternatives, the BBC reported.
However, it doesn't explain why certain words do or don't appeal to women, instead leaving companies to interpret the findings in their own way and reword their job descriptions accordingly. One company that has seen outstanding results is the Australian software company Atlassian, which hired 80% more women into technical roles in two years after changing the wording of its job adverts.
Atlassian wanted to "create a work culture where diverse ideas get shared," its global head of diversity and belonging, Aubrey Blanche, told the BBC, so it stopped using the term "coding ninja", which Textio found was off-putting for women, and "stakeholder", which the data showed "serves as a signal to people of colour that their contributions may not be valued".
Even the format of a job description has the potential to put women off, with lengthy bullet points outlining the requirements less likely to result in them applying, Textio's analysis has shown.
Research by Textio in 2016 reinforced the idea that gendered language determines who companies hire. In jobs where a man was hired, the original ad included an average of nearly twice as many "masculine-tone phrases" as feminine, while the opposite was true in jobs where a woman was hired.
According to Textio, some examples include: exhaustive, enforcement, and fearless.
Transparent, catalyst, and in touch with.
Workforces that are diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity have been shown time and again to be higher performing and more profitable than their counterparts, so if businesses are serious about boosting their bottom lines they should clearly be paying more attention to language.