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Gender-Skewed Job Postings: What Does that Mean?

Despite the “war for top talent,” some employers looking to fill high level technical or business positions just do not “talk the talk.” What do we mean?


An October 2016 report from the White House discusses the preparations needed for a future deeply impacted by new and coming developments in technology like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and machine learning. Specifically, the report discusses the need for researchers, specialists, and users who are trained on the capabilities of AI engineering.

As noted in the report, AI and resulting technologies are interdisciplinary, requiring substantial workforce commitment from professionals with background in science, technical, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields. The paper also discusses the need for diversity among those who create, refine, and use AI because the technology is required for a diverse world.

Addressing only gender, diversity in STEM fields is on a downward curve. The report references statistics that currently 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. In 1984, women made up 34 percent of those graduating in computer science. Part of it could be a language problem.


Techie rockstar needed…


Our company works with high-level, experienced candidates in IT, business, and engineering to address positions in mid- to large-size Fortune 500 and similar businesses. We understand the “war for talent,” and the need for our candidates to pursue the type of jobs they are truly interested in—as opposed to being sold on a job that is the wrong fit.

“Fit” begins with a job posting. We talked earlier about the kind of things that an employer, or a recruiter, can do to create a job description that addresses a tight job marketplace populated by people who may, or may not, be looking for their next career move. As a candidate, we know you have limited time to look through job postings.

A potential employer has a limited amount of time and words to attract you to their business. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that certain words skew as either masculine or feminine. The study includes a list of words that could be considered as more supportive, or indicative, of one gender or the other. But, a job is a job and what is the big deal?

The big deal is that job descriptions created without awareness of at least some need for gender neutrality could be off-putting to you, as a qualified candidate. There is no question that men and women communicate in a different way, with different language. As a male, you may care less whether an employer is looking for an “aggressive leader looking to attack and solve complex problems.”

If you are a female, you may consciously, or unconsciously, decide that is not an environment for you—regardless of your skilled, assertive leadership style, and your ability to get the job done. While you may have sought employment with the owner of that job description in the past—the future is a different matter.

As employers and recruiters develop new tools, tricks, and pump up benefits and perks to attract desirable applicants, they may not even know their job posting, as their first impression, ended their chances with you at the outset.

So what do you do? Awareness is a big part of the equation. As an experienced and valuable job candidate, it is to your benefit to notice if job postings are written in language that does not support inclusivity. Consider these points:


  • Employers who use gendered language may be actively seeking a certain type or gender of employee. This could go toward either gender. Without screening for themselves, their job postings are filtering for them, potentially repelling individuals who pick up on the language. This contributes to a more homogenous workforce.
  • Other employers may be wholly unaware that they job descriptions are antiquated and biased. If the job description does not track with overall messaging from the company, check out other information about the company. If you have associates who work there, ask around. If it could be a good fit, apply—it will give you a chance to understand the situation better.
  • As a woman or a man, it may not matter to you what kind of language is used in job postings. If you notice gender-skewed language, take it as free information, and use it as part of your decision to apply to the company. Or talk to a recruiter who is likely to know the profile of an employer from the inside-out. We work with our candidates, offering and researching employer information to ensure the fit is right for our applicants.


As the job marketplace tightens, more employers will start looking at how they are presenting themselves to potential candidates. In the meantime, if we can help you understand options for where you are going, we would like to hear from you.


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