HR Tips: So Your Recruitment Ads Enhance Diversity Not Sexism



Can we agree that a diverse workplace leads to innovation, problem-solving and enhanced enterprise communication? And, as you know, inequality is unlawful.

Why then are there so many companies that unknowingly, perhaps, promote sexism?

That’s right. An academic study shows that many job postings are gender biased.

sexist ad pamela andersonTelevision ad featuring Pamela Anderson posing as a boss, which was banned in UK


The report entitled, “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality,” was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study was conducted by Danielle Gaucher and Justin Friesen at the University of Waterloo, and Aaron C. Kay at Duke University. (Professor Gaucher is now at Princeton University.)

Tech companies, for example, have a diversity problem. Women comprise only 11 percent of U.S. engineers and just 26 percent of computer programmers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the methodology, the researchers collected job-listing samples and divided them into two groups of professions – male dominated and female dominated.

They concluded that many companies appear to use gender-biased verbiage in their job listings. Though not explicit, such phraseology in recruitment advertisements serves as code words to women not to apply.

“Employing both archival and experimental analyses, the present research demonstrates that gendered wording commonly employed in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations,” wrote the authors.

… many companies appear to use gender-biased verbiage in their job listings.

Alleviating turnover

They also contend that such biased cultures lead to high attrition rates.

“It is plausible, then, that institutional-level barriers to women’s participation in male dominated domains occur most prominently at certain critical points,” explained the authors. “In the present research we focus on job recruitment as one of those critical points.”

Not to be an exercise in political correctness, the dubious words in-question are “competitive,” “dominant” and “leader.” They tend to connote power inequality in the workplace.

Typically, female-dominated workplaces don’t use such words.

Phrasing also plays a role, according to the researchers.

For example, a job ad that reads “someone to ‘analyze markets to determine appropriate selling prices’” is covertly masculine.

But to eliminate the possible perception of sexism by female applicants, the authors argue it would be better for the ad to state “the ideal candidate will ‘understand markets to establish appropriate selling prices.’”

Welcoming culture

The researchers point out the need to understand the motivation of women. Otherwise, they don’t feel they’re welcome.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that belongingness – feeling that one fits in with others within a particular domain – affects people’s achievement motivation specifically and engagement within a domain more generally, and that it can be signaled by cues in the environment,” added the authors.

So, if you’re having challenges recruiting for diversity, consider your tactics in job listings. Next, examine your culture to make certain it doesn’t have institutional bias.

These are the right things to do.

Read the study here.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested resource links:

Need to Hire a Professional? Advertising Tips to Attract the Best Talent — Whether your business has grown so you need to hire a key professional or you’re replacing a person, there are certain advertising-recruitment tips to use.

HR Study Reveals Challenges for Management in Teamwork, Culture and Diversity — Issues have come to light for managers who want profits by achieving maximum teamwork and workplace cultures. A human resources study shows 40 percent of men and women don’t want to work on projects with the opposite gender.

Are You Successful In Keeping Female Talent? Here’s How and Why — Enlightened marketers know that women make 80 percent of household buying decisions. And in most cases, even when a husband goes to make a purchase, he often defers to his wife. Whether it’s a suit or a computer, she usually prevails on choosing the color and the price. So, if you want to be successful in attracting female customers, enhance your odds by making your company a great place for women to work.

6 Steps to Implement a Cultural Change for Profits — If your company is lacking in teamwork, morale is poor and profits are weak, chances are you need to change your organization’s culture. Be forewarned, changing a culture is a monumental chore because it will take strategic planning and super powers of persuasion.

6 Tips to Turn Your HR Department into a Profit Center — At least 50 percent of a company’s profits are contingent on employee problems. If you have challenges in one department, odds are you have HR issues in other departments. In fact, human capital is the No. 1 reason why CEOs lose sleep. Many businesses often need an objective source of information and expertise from critical thinkers. It’s true you can turn your human resources department into a profit center.

Excellence: Doing a common thing in an uncommon way, enhancing the experience.


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.