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Are Construction Job Adverts Putting Women Off Applying?

I spotted an interesting article on the BBC website this week, which suggested there was scientific data to back up the theory that some of the language used in job descriptions is putting women off applying jobs.  The research has been conducted by a US based ‘Augmented Writing Software’ company, who claim that their findings are the result of analysing hundreds of millions of job adverts.

The Theory

I’m sure you’re eagerly awaiting an example at this stage; I know I was. Well, here is the example that they give. Let’s take the following sentence as an example:

“We’re looking for someone who can manage a team”

This looks like a relatively common and innocuous phrase to see in a job description, right?

According to the research conducted, the word ‘manage’ encourages more men than women to apply to roles containing this language. Their suggestion would be to replace the word ‘manage’ with the word ‘develop’ which is seen to be more female-friendly.

A couple more examples included using the words ‘competitive’ or ‘leader’ which were also seen as masculine words which favoured more male applicants. Instead, words such as ‘support’ and ‘interpersonal’ were seen as more feminine words which appealed greater to women.

In a similar vein, the same analysing of language in job adverts found that certain words can be more and less appealing to ethnic minorities. For example, in the article it is stated that the word ‘stakeholder’ can often lead “people of colour to feel that their contributions are not valued”.

There are huge international businesses that use such software to ensure that their job adverts are written in a way that they are encouraging equal opportunity and diversity. One company in particular boasting an 80% increase in the hiring of women since they started to use using software to ensure their job ads were encouraging applicants to apply.

Why is Equality & Diversity Important?

Issues relating to equality have been big news for many years now and only seem to be intensifying of late. My social media feeds are constantly populated by articles relating equality issues in the work place such as the gender pay gap and the amount of women in senior positions within companies.

Governments, professional bodies and businesses all keen to push forward the equality message, all are working away at initiatives that can be brought in at a micro and macro level.

Some larger companies are having to provide evidence of equal opportunity policies within their business in order to win work.

For example, I visited the HS2 supplier roadshows and the supply chain team made it very clear that equal opportunity and diversity were critical criteria that they would be assessing as part of the procurement process.  The suggestion was that companies actively working towards promoting a diverse workforce would be looked upon favourably.

The construction industry faces many challenges at the moment and the skills shortage is one of the very biggest of them. With women only accounting for circa 13% of the construction industry (figures from end of 2016 – ONS survey) , attracting more females into the industry would certainly seem a sensible long term strategy to try and help bridge the skills gap.

How Key is Language in Job Descriptions to Encourage Equality?

If I’m completely honest, my personal view is that I’m a little bit sceptical of the research that has been carried out in specific relation to language in job descriptions. However, I did find the results thought provoking if nothing else.

I must point out that there were plenty of comments on the thread that I found this article that seemed to agree with the findings. I also appreciate that I am neither a woman nor of an ethnic minority so I’m hoping to seek further opinions on this matter. Therefore I’ve certainly not made a categorical conclusion just yet on this topic.

As a Recruiter, my primary aim is to ensure that the job descriptions I am writing are as inclusive as possible and attracting the very best talent available regardless of gender or race. Therefore I will be considering my language more carefully when writing job descriptions in the future, however maybe not down to such minute detail as the results of this research suggest.

I’ve always considered Maxim Recruitment’s job descriptions to be amongst the best in the business when it comes to details and facts relating to the vacancies we are advertising.

Despite working in the construction industry which is still very male dominated, as a business we’ve managed to attract some fantastic female talent over the years and having researched our recent placements...

22% of our placements in the last 2 years have been female, compared just 13% women working in the construction industry.

Therefore I feel we’re ahead of the curve when promoting equal opportunity and diversity in the construction industry.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Are certain words in job descriptions more or less appealing to certain genders? If so, which words turn you on and off a job advert?

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