Words matter. Thinking about how you talk about jobs if you want more women to apply.

Every now and then I see someone who has the best of intentions but who promotes job opportunities that will send most potential female candidates running for the hills.

It’s easy to do, especially if you’re passionate about the job and your team. And especially if your company is a bit blokey. (That is, you’ve already got lots of men and not so many women).

Happily, lots of people have been doing some great work to try to help us all write about our jobs in ways that are more attractive to female candidates. This is a good thing because it means that you’ve now got the attention of 100% of the possible candidates for your job, not just the fellas. Your chances of getting a good candidate are greater.

(Also, we know that having senior women in your organisation seems to contribute to its overall success. So increasing your chances of hiring a woman could help make your business more successful. Double yay.)

The short version:

“Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, while women wait until they feel they meet 100% of the criteria.”

This is the main thing you need to know.  What you need to do because you know this includes:

  • only make something a requirement of the job if it is absolutely essential that that person already knows how to do that before they start. Key your list of ‘need to know/do’ requirements as short as possible.
  • don’t make it sound like you have to be the most awesome person at the job ever to be able to apply. Men tend to think that they awesome well in advance of actually being awesome, where as women tend to have to convinced that they are awesome long after they’ve actually been awesome. If you know what I mean.So, even though you and I know that you’re after a ‘shit hot, ninja, thought leading <name of role>’, we should keep that to ourselves when we’re writing our job spec and promoting our job, if we want more women to contemplate applying.

If you want to know more about how to do this well, there are some really good articles and tools you should take a look at here:

Can a few well chosen words improve inclusivity

25 Tips for Diverse Hiring

Why we removed the word ‘hacker’ from Buffer job descriptions

Hire more women in tech

Not everything is awesome

Why women don’t apply for jobs until they are 100% qualified

Job listings that don’t alienate

Gender Decoder for Job Ads  (tool)

Job lint (tool)

and Alice Bartlett has a great list over here with some of these and even more.

So, there you go. Talk about jobs well. Get more women (and promote them when they’re doing good work). Profit (and other good things).

Many thanks to everyone who wrote these things up and pointed me to them on Twitter.  You are awesome. No, really, you are.

2 thoughts on “Words matter. Thinking about how you talk about jobs if you want more women to apply.

  1. All employers are not like that, many consider women as the equals of men, I see this for several years in France, but we must be vigilant!

    1. Hi Lina,
      I think many of the employers who post advertisements etc. like this actually want women to apply and are certainly not actively discouraging them.

      I’m glad you’ve had good experiences :)

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