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Most businesses' job adverts contain 'male bias'

More than half (60%) of businesses exhibit male bias in job adverts as a result of gendered language, according to research by Adzuna

The jobsite used an academic study by Gaucher, Friesen and Kay to explore gendered wording in adverts.

The academics looked at how language in job adverts has the effect of steering applicants to apply according to their gender. 'Male-coded' words such as ‘lead’ and ‘dominant’ encourage a higher number of male applicants to female applicants, whereas 'female-coded' words such as ‘sensitive’ and ‘affectionate’ attract more female talent.

Adzuna searched for a selection of 170 traditionally masculine and feminine words cited in the study in 1.2 million job adverts every year from 2014 to 2018.

The study discovered each job advert in the UK uses on average 17% more male- than female-biased words. This bias is found across multiple sectors, with 60% of all UK industries exhibiting significant male bias within job ads.

Consultancy (72%), property (54%) and sales (51%) proved to be the most discouraging towards female applicants, with each sector using at least 50% more male- than female-biased words in their job ads.

The industries with the most female-biased language in adverts in 2018 were found to be domestic help and cleaning (60%), teaching (38%), social work (30%), charity and voluntary (27%) and healthcare and nursing (12%).

The most neutral industry in 2018 was retail, which used just 5% more female-coded words than male-coded words. The researchers noted that the industry has made rapid improvements; in 2015 the sector was using 50% more male- than female-coded words.

There has been some progress, they said, with 78% of companies across all sectors moving towards neutral wording over the past five years, and only 19% of industries in the UK becoming more male-biased in their wording.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said that organisations must become more aware of bias in adverts and how it fosters discrimination. “UK industries need to be more conscious about language during their recruitment process,” he said. “Gendered wording in job adverts can have the effect of supporting the gender imbalance within industries that are already perceived as being male-dominated.

"While it is encouraging to see a general trend towards neutral language over the past few years, several industries need to make more of an effort to combat gender bias within their ads in order to subliminally encourage female talent."

With gender pay gaps coming under scrutiny in recent years it is time for employers to examine their hiring practices, he said: “Unconscious bias may lead to accidental discrimination, but there is no excuse in 2019. It’s time for employers to go back to the drawing board and redesign their recruitment basics in order to keep up with the times. We’re already seeing movement being made towards gender equality when it comes to pay; why should attracting talent be any different?”