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Where does gender bias start? In the job ads

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Gender inequity in the workplace can affect everything from promotions to pay, but it turns out the problem starts even before an employee is hired.

About 70 percent of job listings include words often associated with masculinity, such as “strong” and “assertive,” according to a new study from ZipRecruiter. Some job ads include feminine words such as “polite and pleasant” or “nurture.” The problem with such loaded terms is that they often turn off both men and women, which ends up limiting a company’s pool of potential applicants.

ZipRecruiter based its judgment of what represents a gendered word on a study by the American Psychological Association. 

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Reframing a job ad with neutral wording can boost the number of responses by 42 percent, ZipRecruiter found, which recommends that companies examine their wording and rewrite ads to appeal to the greatest number of candidates. By and large, companies are aware that they are excluding certain genders by writing their job ads with loaded words, said Jeanne Anderson, senior vice president of product marketing and optimization.

“When were started to hear about gendered key words, it set off a few alarms for us,” Anderson said. “I think it is, to a certain extent, unconscious. There is a subtext to certain words, and if a candidate sees a job posting loaded with male-gendered words, maybe they think It’s not a great fit or in line with what they are looking for. It’s unconscious and also quite tragic. “

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Companies are open to changing their job postings once they learn they are likely limiting their number of applications, Anderson said. She added that hiring executives “have good intentions” but don’t realize certain words can be construed as gender biased.

“The reaction is usually, ‘Oh, I had no idea, so how do I change it?’” she said.

ZipRecruiter recommends companies focus on the essence of the job, rather than trying to add sizzle by adding words like “ambitious,” “aggressive” or “affectionate.” Focusing on the requirements of the job can help companies avoid using gendered words, she noted.

Candidates should likewise look beyond gendered terms, rather than ruling themselves out if the terminology doesn’t feel like a good fit. “If the job ad says ‘strong’ and ‘competitive’ but you don’t consider yourself cut-throat, but you have excellent credentials, go ahead and apply,” she said.

Certain industries are more likely to rely on gendered words than others. Business lead the pack, with 94 percent of job ads included gendered terms, followed by science and engineering as well as technology at 92 percent.

Geographically, the three states with the most male-specific job listings are South Dakota, Maine and Mississippi. The most female-specific job ads were found in New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., the research found. 

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