The language of sexism in job adverts

The BBC has an interesting article on how language in job adverts can seem sexist. And technology is being used to spot and fix the problem.

Seems legit.

Is there a “female” term for manager? Mother a team?

They need to call it “personage.”

According to the article “develop a team”

Why is the neutral term ‘manage’ sexist? Is it because it starts with ‘man’?

I suppose my approach of encouraging women to reach for the brass ring and helping them negotiate for a better deal must be misogynistic somehow. It makes much more sense to pass up opportunities while waiting for the world to change.

Seems like the article has an unconscious bias in assuming that businesses will always be wanting to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities. What if they’re trying to increase the number of male teachers?

Personally, I wouldn’t even want to attract the kind of woman who is daunted by the concept of “management”. Besides, THAT is the job!

“Developing” and “managing” aren’t even the same thing. My SiL develops organizations/programs, but then she is done. She has nothing to do with
ongoing management.

Then they can use the same research to get people who want to “manage children”.

The article doesn’t have an unconscious bias. It does cite the clear evidence that diversity is good for business profitability, though. Maybe it’s reality that has the bias.

Not one place in this article did they use the term “sexist.”

The language isn’t “sexist” - which implies discrimination or language that is prejudicial or offensive. The language is not prejudicial. It’s not offensive. It is just that the descriptions are written in ways that do not appeal to women.

The article doesn’t suggest that it’s misogynistic to encourage women to “reach for the brass ring.” The article, and the research suggests that companies can do a better job finding qualified female candidates by making subtle changes in the language used to recruit candidates.

I just read this article from January’s Wired magazine (I’ve been busy) that is an interview with a woman named Maria Klawe who has invested herself in the process of bringing more women into tech. She discusses the same issue with job descriptions as found in the article from the OP.

Well that’s a good idea. My wife works at bringing women into technology also. She finds it a very frustrating effort, but there are companies who do want diversity in their employees, and not just for PC reasons, but because they realize that they need to compete by using new ideas and approaches and better understanding of their customers.

I wonder if this is an age related issue. The company I work for (at least until September I think) has a difficult time finding women who are not recent grads to apply for jobs. I mentored one a few years ago but most of the women in the upper ranks of the company started with us at a much younger age. The percentage of young women applying for jobs who are fresh out of school is much higher. And they are just as much tech heads as the men, but they aren’t qualified for management positions.

At least in part, I think. A lot of women who started in STEM fields 10, 20, 30^ years ago got pushed away or to the sides; some of us were told we could train but not do (hi!), or purchase but not do, or sell but not do, or run QC but not do… Some of us have stayed on those sides, some have eventually moved further out. But newer generations have seen more and more women going into STEM fields; shoving them aside is going to be harder. I don’t have the cite handy and couldn’t find it when I looked for it a few days ago, but apparently in Spain we’re already about 50:50 for STEM as a group, although with different gender balances depending on the specific field or even the name of the degree* - compare with when I went to college, when the only engineering field that already achieved parity was my own ChemE.

  • Ingenieros de Telecomunicaciones and Informáticos have the exact same potential job markets, but for some reason Telecos lean female and Informáticos male by similar amounts. Both “why” and “does this need to be changed or it doesn’t really matter” are above my pay grade.
    ^ Damn I’m old.

… thinking about the Spanish-CS-people issue some more, one of the things which is likely to influence the gender ratio of applicants in Spain is the specific degrees mentioned in the ad. Ask for Informáticos (h/m), you’ll see lots of men; ask for Ing. Teleco. (h/m), you’ll see lots of women; ask for Informático/Ing. Teleco. (h/m), you may end up 50:50. (h/m) means male/female: all three ads are indicating they’re interested in both genders, but will get different ratios because the specific degrees mentioned have different ratios. But often people placing ads (or asking HR to do so) mention whichever degree they happen to have, not all and any degrees which would be just fine for the job.

The company has a rule that all employees must have a college degree (me being an exception). We don’t care what kind of degree and in some departments prefer non-technical degrees. But getting through the testing phase before they’d get an actual interview ends up with almost everyone having a CS, math, or engineering degree. We really need some humans in the jobs that interact with our customers. I have recommended many times that the jobs in support require a phone interview to see if the candidate can pass a Turing test, but we still hire people with less communication skills than a microwave oven.

From the cite in the OP -

I don’t think they are implying that writing a job ad at a lower reading level attracts more women, but the juxtaposition is unfortunate. Plus, “we want to attract candidates who read at a lower level” is kind of problematic.


When I lived in my old town, the local newspaper once ran a want ad for RNs, men only. They would be working in the intake clinic of a men’s prison.

Someone on another board kept saying, “Why don’t they just hire anyone, and provide security for women?” :smack: :rolleyes: Ummmm, because this is an environment where women do not belong? Would she have said the same thing about a want ad for a shelter for abused women? Didn’t think so.

Meaning they don’t even go BEEP! when you poke 'em? :slight_smile:

Is it still problematic if you gloss it as “We want to attract the kind of people who want to work at the kind of place that knows how to write appropriate, efficient job ads rather than floridly overwritten essays?” Because that’s my take - not “a lower level” but “a level fit-to-purpose”.

I’m not sure how you’re getting that. Or perhaps that bespeaks poorly of the American education system. I think that in American terms, some words might inadvertently be ‘dog whistles’.

The juxtaposition that I saw was that the company mentioned both tries to remove terms that appeal less to women, AND tries to rewrite job descriptions so that people who read at a lower level are not driven away. Which is easy to mistake for “dumb it down or you won’t attract women”. I don’t think that’s what they were saying, but it is an easy mistake to make.

Sure, terms could be dog whistles - whether or not “manage” is a dog whistle and “develop” is not is less clear.

The companies mentioned are quick to add that they aren’t saying this is sexism, or why it drives away women, just that they think using those terms does drive away women. Of course, they are trying to sell their software, so maybe a grain or two of salt is in order.