17 Words That Are Turning Women Away From Your Jobs

May 25, 2016

“Ninjas” may be killing your company’s diversity efforts.

Ok, not “real” ninjas – I’m talking about the word “ninja.” Numerous reports, including a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, indicate female professionals are less likely to apply to jobs that include male-sounding words in the job description. This is a mistake companies cannot afford to make, especially when certain industries are coming under scrutiny for lacking a gender-balanced workforce (yes, the tech industry is the most obvious example).

So, if you’re trying to recruit women, and you don't want your efforts sabotaged by your own job description, check out the list below. 

The words you need to ditch to attract women to your jobs

Studies show that these are the masculine-oriented words you should avoid if you want to make your job descriptions appealing to women:

  • Active 
  • Adventurous 
  • Aggressive 
  • Ambitious/Ambition
  • Analytical
  • Assertive
  • Autonomous
  • Decisive
  • Determined 
  • Dominant/Dominating
  • Independent
  • Lead
  • Ninja
  • Objective
  • Outspoken
  • Rock Star
  • Superior

So to one person, an ad for a "coding ninja" might refer to someone who is a master at their craft. But to some job seekers, "ninja" conveys violence or aggression that might turn them off. Same with "rock star" — a term with a connotation of loud excess that might not sit well with some applicants.

Use these words instead

Some experts suggest you can still keep some of the words listed above, but use them sparingly. You can also balance out these masculine sounding words with more inclusive, female friendly words.

The 2011 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study includes a list of words that tested well with female applicants. However, many of them play to female stereotypes and may not seem empowering to women. So, use caution when going through this list.

  • Commit 
  • Connect
  • Considerate 
  • Cooperate
  • Depend 
  • Honest
  • Interpersonal 
  • Loyal
  • Pleasant
  • Polite 
  • Responsible
  • Support 
  • Together
  • Trust
  • Understand

Now you know which words you might want to avoid, and which ones you might want to consider using if you want women to apply to your jobs. And, if you’re looking for an automated way to scan your posts to make sure they will appeal to women, there’s an app for that.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

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