Words matter. And the way we use them in job adverts can dictate whether or not people bother to apply. This is a big problem if you are a business trying to recruit more women and ethnic minorities into your workforce. So can tech help remove these unconscious biases?
A job description that uses the phrase “We are looking for someone to manage a team” may seem innocuous enough.
But research, based on an analysis of hundreds of millions of job ads, has shown that the word “manage” encourages more men than women to apply for the role.
Changing the word to “develop” would make it more female-friendly, says Kieran Snyder, chief executive of Seattle-based Textio, an “augmented writing software” company.
Textio uses artificial intelligence to pore over job descriptions in real time, highlighting any terms that could come across as particularly masculine or feminine.
The software then suggests alternatives. “We do not explain why this or that phrase excludes women,” says Ms Snyder. “We just provide the data and the company in question can come up with their own theory on why that sentence does not work.”
When Australian software giant Atlassian used Textio’s software for its job-ad copy, the results were striking. It saw an 80 per cent increase in the hiring of women in technical roles globally over a two-year period.
“We wanted to create a work culture where diverse ideas get shared,” says Aubrey Blanche, Atlassian’s global head of diversity and belonging.
She says Textio taught her company to avoid terms such as “coding ninja” – a common phrase in Silicon Valley job ads. “These words send a message to women that these are hostile work environments for female staffers,” says Ms Blanche.
And the word stakeholder apparently “serves as a signal to people of colour that their contributions may not be valued”, adds Ms Blanche. “We don’t know why, but this is what the data shows.” –BBC