Finally, An App That Determines if Your Job Descriptions Are Sexist

July 24, 2015

Have you ever wondered if your job descriptions are sexist? Well, they might be, according professors from University of Waterloo and Duke and their research paper titled “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exist and Sustains Gender Inequality.”

Have no fear though, as there’s an app created by intrepid software engineer Kat Matfield specifically designed to determine if your job advertisement is written with “gender-coded language” that would discourage women from applying.

Specifically, using the evidence in the paper, words like “active,” “outspoken” and “decisive” suggest the job description was written by a man and will appeal more to men. Conversely, words like “considerate”, “understand” and “loyal” suggest the job description was written by a woman and will appeal more to women; although the research shows men care far less about it.

The app analyzes what type of language you are using – more male-coded language or female-coded language – and determines which gender it will be more appealing to. You can run your job description through the test for free here.

The research behind the app

The research paper this app is based on was published in 2011 and studied why “women in North America continue to be underrepresented in many areas of employment.” They discovered that job advertisements, specifically in male-dominated fields, contained “masculine wording” and therefore subconsciously promote more men to apply to those jobs than women.

“The results of these studies demonstrate that masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women, which, we propose, likely perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields,” the study said.

The study found that job descriptions with a lot of feminine wording did little to discourage men from applying for the job. However, job descriptions with a lot of masculine wording did discourage women from applying to the job, because they felt like they wouldn’t belong.

“Women anticipated less belongingness in jobs that were masculinely worded, and these changes in anticipated belongingness mediated the effects on appeal,” the study read. “Thus, this study also provides evidence for the hypothesis that masculine wording is unappealing to women precisely because it conveys that they may not belong in that job.”

The researchers recommend changing the wording in job descriptions, so they are more gender-neutral. However, that alone will not fix the problem, as the way candidates are assessed needs to change as well, the researchers argued.

“Adding feminine wording to a job advertisement may attract more female applicants, but what if those applicants are now evaluated differently by the people making hiring decisions?” the study read. “It would be unfortunate if a femininely worded job advertisement generated more job interest from women generally, but then agentic female applicants were subsequently less likely to be hired.”

To create the app, Matfield inserted a list of the most feminine-coded words and the most masculine-coded words as determined by the study, which can be seen here, into an algorithm. The algorithm than counts the amount of gender-coded words in the job description and determines if it is masculine-worded or feminine-worded, and how much so in either direction.

“Without realising it, we all use language that is subtly ‘gender-coded’. Society has certain expectations of what men and women are like, and how they differ, and this seeps into the language we use,” Matfield wrote, describing the app. “This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect.”

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*Image from Man Men 

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