Diversity is (quite rightly) an incredibly hot topic in the talent markets that we operate in. Whether it’s security, software engineering, data or technology sales the question hiring managers are asking is the same: how can we attract a more diverse workforce? In a recent interview we conducted with Jane Frankland (CISO Adviser, Author & Champion for Women in Security) she stated “diversity makes for a strategic and competitive advantage. It’s not just about recruiting diversity for diversity’s sake.” Studies show that diverse teams are safer and higher performing due to a more balanced perspective on risk and reward.
In terms of candidate availability in the IT sector, the gender imbalance is there for all to see with estimates ranging that females make up between 17 to 30 percent of the technology workforce. Given the scarcity of candidates, hiring managers need to focus on diversity at every stage of the recruitment lifecycle to win. In this blog we’ll be exploring whether the use of gender inclusive words in job specs can influence the number of female applicants.
This issue was highlighted recently by tech firm Textico, an augmented writing company powered by AI, who partnered with Atlassian on their job ad copy to help them achieve an incredible 80% increase in female technical hires over a two-year period. They highlighted that making simple changes in the words you choose within job specs can make a massive difference. For example, changing words like ‘manage’ to ‘develop’ and avoiding hostile words like ‘ninja’ in job titles.
To get the sentiments of our client and candidate communities on the issue we asked the following question on polls across social media: Do you think the "words" used in a job spec can deter candidates from a certain gender from applying? Examples could include: "strong", "ninja", "competitive". Does it really make a difference? Responses revealed a marginal victory for the ‘yes camp’ which shows that certainly for some words matter. Interestingly, 64% of those who voted 'yes' were female and 80% of the 'no' responses came from males. This was by no means a scientific study more so a pulse point to test attitudes.
Other reports identify that styles of communication vary by gender (perhaps an obvious statement) with females typically using more emotional and social words, as opposed to men who are often more direct and vigorous. It’s dangerous to generalise, but there is a degree of Mars and Venus that needs to be considered when pulling together your job spec. The words you choose will inevitably change how people react. Layout is also a factor that should be given careful consideration. Job adverts that contain lengthy lists of bullets are statistically more likely to put females off applying.
Either way, we welcome the spotlight that the diversity discussion is shining on the issue of writing a job specs that engage potential candidates. It’s a part of the process that is all too often overlooked and rarely given the attention it deserves as hiring managers rush to advertise vacancies. With companies like Textico introducing the concept of scoring and to a degree gamifying this process we hope to see standards improving across the board. Whilst recruiting for diversity is important it’s even more critical to find the best person for the job and building a complete and engaging job specification is an important step in scoping out your requirements from the outset.
Job specifications and the language used in them clearly plays a supporting role in successfully addressing the balance of gender diversity in recruitment. But we’d encourage clients to think about every stage of the process from candidate briefing packs through to the format of the interviews you conduct. The challenge doesn’t even end once the hire is made. The attrition rate of females in technology organisations is more than twice as high as their male counterparts. Our advice is to create a culture in your organisation that females want to buy into.
At Stott and May we keen to keep the diversity discussion moving. We have recently set up a new initiative called GroWiT (Growing Women in IT) offering a platform for women in the IT industry to network and discuss issues around tech and career development. “We feel there needs to be more role models out there for women in IT and GroWiT provides a fantastic platform for senior technology leaders, who happen to be female, to pay it forward” said Annette Smith a Director at Stott and May. The community will kick off in September with events covering themes such as returning to work being scheduled in as we speak. To find out more about GroWiT check out our MeetUp group.