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Inclusive language within tech job adverts

Taking an inclusive approach to jobs ads and encouraging a greater range of interest should be a no-brainer

It’s an old saying but it still rings true in so many ways: “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

In business many first impressions are formed in response to the wording of a firm’s job adverts, and if that initial perception is one of inclusiveness your company is immediately more attractive to candidates of all genders and races.

The question I’d ask any organisation, big or small, is whether they’ve looked at, or even considered, the way their job ads are written in relation to inclusivity, and the impression they give off to prospective employees.

Augmented writing platform Textio analysed more than 78,000 vacancies, and the results are perhaps even more relevant today given the continued growth of tech across all platforms.

Research highlighted how the way a vacancy is worded can have a radical impact on the ratio of male and female applicants. One of the big takeaways perhaps shouldn’t come as any surprise – the inclusion of certain words that are viewed as masculine simply put women off.

Australian firm Atlassian – a $1.2 billion enterprise software company with headquarters in Sydney – pushed the envelope further, and after putting Textio’s research to the test, results showed an 80% boost in female technical hires.

Atlassian’s global head of diversity and belonging Aubrey Blanche hits the nail squarely on the head: “Silicon Valley perpetuates this idea that if your code works that’s all that matters,” she says. “But empirical research suggests otherwise.

“What you see is that 20% of technical degrees today go to women. Yet at large tech companies fewer than 20% of their engineering staff are women. About 11% of computer science degrees in the US are given to black and Hispanic students every year, but at most tech companies less than 5% of workers – including non-technical employees – identify as black or Hispanic.

“Those numbers say there’s something broken in the system. It’s pretty clear that our industry isn’t integrating all of the potential talent that’s out there.”

Another interesting take comes from The Next Web reporter Cara Curtis, who gets under the skin of the issue while looking at AI-powered tools that can help you write inclusive job ads. Her research reveals some interesting terms that are widely considered masculine coded, and therefore problematic.

Words such as ambitious, boastful, workforce, dominate, and hierarchical were flagged as divisive – yet all of these are commonly used despite the fact they may deter applicants.

If companies are genuinely committed to appealing to a wide variety of potential applicants there must be a widespread acceptance that language is the single most important factor when detailing vacancies.

It’s no secret that firms within the tech sector are struggling to address the digital skills gap –an obstacle currently affecting companies across the industry. With this in mind, taking an inclusive approach to jobs ads and encouraging a greater range of interest should be a no-brainer.

The imbalances Aubrey Blanche refers to are issues at a grass-roots level, even though all of the evidence points towards the positive effect things like gender parity can have on the bottom line.

Job ads should be viewed as a company’s shop window; a snapshot of a firm’s culture and a chance to outline an organisation’s ethos.

How this is achieved comes back to wording, and the kind of language used to encourage applicants from across the board. Until this is acknowledged and addressed from the top down, the aforementioned skills gap will remain the sector’s biggest headache.

In a report from global law firm Baker McKenzie, Spotlight on the Gender Pay Gap in the US, the message from Millennials is as stark as it is crystal clear. Around 80% said they wouldn’t consider applying for a role if they believed the company in question had a gender pay gap.

Equality across race and gender has never been more essential in the job market, and if this figure tells us anything it’s that promoting a positive employer brand from the outset and making the right first impression should be top of a firm’s priorities.

Danielle Ramsbottom is director and head of strategic alliances and enterprise sales for Frank Recruitment Group

Further reading

De-biasing language in job adverts

Is positive action always a positive thing?

Achieving a diverse STEM workforce requires more effort

Tech gender imbalance to last another 12.5 years