Are you guilty of ‘unconscious gender bias’ in your recruitment adverts?

The sector most likely to use female-skewed wording was social care, even at senior job levels

Totaljobs has released survey findings that reveal how Britain’s recruiters and employers are risking their diversity by using unconscious gender-biased language in their job adverts.

The study into recruitment advertising language in the UK is the largest of its kind carried out to date. Over 76,000 jobs adverts in the UK were analysed in a period of six weeks, with the results showing how employers were unconsciously building bias into their talent searches by relying on gender-based language to describe ideal candidates.

Totaljobs found that, on average, a job advert contained six gender-specific words. Recruiters and employers who are keen to tackle the issue and improve the diversity of their job advertising can use the new Gender Bias Decoder, which has been created by the job board.

This will automatically scan recruitment documents, such as job descriptions, CVs and even emails, to flag up unintentional bias.

What sort of words are identified with a specific gender? Male-biased words include lead, analyse, competitive, active and confident; female-biased words include: support, responsible, understanding, committed and dependable.

At extreme ends of the spectrum, a job advert for a senior revenue manager contained 67 male-coding words, and a residential worker contained 46 female-coding words.

The research also discovered that adverts and descriptions for more senior positions tended to have a male bias. As an example, ads with words such as ‘partner’ or ‘director’ in the title had a 22 per cent skew towards unintentional bias.

The gender bias also exists at a junior level. Job titles with ‘assistant’ in them were associated with a female bias of 58 per cent, while industries that tended to use male-coded words included consulting at 68 per cent, sales at 63 per cent, and IT at 52 per cent.

The sector most likely to use female-skewed wording was social care, even at senior job levels. Similarly, STEM roles were highly likely to use male-coded language, despite the sector working hard to get more women into science, technology or engineering roles.

This could help to explain why STEM roles are still struggling to attract women, with unconscious bias being displayed from the very first point that a potential candidate gets a chance to engage with the employer.

Sectors that tended to unconsciously use female bias wording included sports and fitness, education, customer services, and marketing. Interestingly, however, the IT industry came very close to providing relative gender equality in its wording choices.

The study reveals a fascinating insight into how good efforts to promote diversity across businesses can easily be undermined at the very first hurdle.

The unconscious nature of these gender bias decisions means that a very concerted effort needs to be made to effect real change and to ensure that diversity becomes a reality at every level of the organisation.

Only then can the benefits of a truly diverse workforce be enjoyed and experienced by modern employers. You can try the Gender Bias Decoder tool online at

Use it to analyse the job advertisements and descriptions used within your own organisation for an instant assessment of unconscious gender bias contained in the language used.

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