The way society uses language and how we perceive gender are changing. According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Gen Zers and 25 percent of Millennials say they know someone who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns like they and them. That means your recruiting team needs to change the way they use language to better communicate and connect with potential applicants and qualified candidates.
Here’s how your organization can hire—and retain—top diverse talent by using inclusive language and avoiding gender norms.
Job descriptions inform potential applicants about what the position’s daily responsibilities will be and what your organization does. Yet your job descriptions may be signaling to female applicants that your company is a brompany—a “bro company.” Words like “ninja” make women believe your company is male-dominated, claims Mediabistro. This, in turn, causes females to promptly exit your organization’s hiring funnel.
Your job descriptions should instead be written with candidates in mind. Josh Bellis, a former Director and Global Head of Diversity Recruitment for a Fortune 1,000 company, suggests rethinking your adjective usage if you want to be inclusive. “It’s better for entry-level positions to be straightforward and use language everyone can understand,” Bellis says. “This will ensure you get fully represented qualified candidates.”
Here are more ways to write inclusive job descriptions. Utilizing these tips can also help you solve a major inequity in the workforce.
Job descriptions can help your recruiting team attract more diverse candidates. That’s only half the battle, though: Your team needs to also avoid using gender norms when they’re hiring top talent.
Let’s first start by explaining what gender norms are: Gender norms are the ways that society expects—and accepts—boys/men and girls/women to behave, according to the American Psychological Association.
These norms are so deeply-rooted that they often affect our careers. According to McKinsey and Co.’s 2019 Women in the Workplace report, women only make up 45 percent of entry-level employees. Even worse, once females are hired by a company, they face the “broken rung”—the unequal rate that men are promoted to managers compared to women—with females only comprising 38 percent of managers.
This is no coincidence: A study by the University at Buffalo School of Management argues that gender norms cause upper management to perceive men as more natural leaders than women.
The good news is, your organization can fix the broken rung and improve your early-career recruiting simultaneously—with candidate personas. If you know successful employees and leaders all possess certain attributes like being a strong communicator, great collaborator, and self-starter, then you can look for all candidates that fit this description. You’ll see a significant improvement in not only the number of qualified diverse candidates that your team hires, but also the quantity and quality of leaders who more fully represent society’s shifting demographics.
Your company needs to be mindful of the language it uses to communicate. If your company still inadvertently thinks top talent subscribes to gender norms, you’ll see a drop-off in qualified diverse candidates applying to your roles, and you’ll find that your leadership lacks the kind of diversity you’re trying to cultivate.