It’s no secret that a diverse and equitable work environment is important for promoting inclusion, collaboration, and safety among employees. But diversity also has a proven positive impact on company success.
Diverse companies are more likely to have above-average financial returns, McKinsey & Co finds. A study from SHRM looked at different aspects of the workplace, including recruitment, compensation, career development, and performance assessment, and found companies with higher percentages of women employees and employees of color tended to be fairer for all employees.
To enhance diversity and gender equality at your company, first consider the elements of your hiring process. Your job listings will be many candidates’ first time encountering your brand, so make a good first impression with inclusive, gender-neutral job descriptions. Using inclusive language will attract a wider range of applicants and, in turn, help you build a more diverse organization.
Understanding the importance of gender-neutral job descriptions
Gender-neutral job posts promote inclusion and reduce bias. Gendered language could dissuade qualified individuals from applying for a job that would actually be a great fit.
Additionally, using gender-coded language in job ads could harm a company’s reputation if it is seen as old-fashioned or discriminatory. Discriminating against candidates based on their gender is prohibited, and companies can face legal action and may be required to pay compensatory and punitive damages if they fail to comply with equal opportunity employment laws.
5 Tips for writing gender-neutral job descriptions
Use inclusive pronouns
Using inclusive pronouns is one of the easiest and most obvious ways to make your job postings more inclusive and enticing for people of all genders. Instead of using gender-specific pronouns like he or she, use you or they. Another option is to restructure sentences to eliminate pronouns entirely.
- “The executive assistant will coordinate meeting and event logistics.”
Avoid gender-coded words
In addition to gender-specific pronouns, some words have an implicit or explicit association with a certain gender. To make job descriptions and job titles more inclusive, replace gender-coded words with neutral words. Language tools like this free Gender Decoder can help you identify and avoid gender-coded words and phrases.
- Words like assertive, driven, competitive, dominant, and independent tend to have a masculine connotation, while words like gentle, loyal, patient, supportive, and enthusiastic are often feminine-coded.
- Instead of salesman/saleswoman, say sales representative or salesperson.
Focus on skills and qualifications instead of strict requirements
You may have heard this frequently quoted statistic: Men will apply for a job when they meet just 60% of the qualifications, but women will apply only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. This phenomenon, also known as the “confidence gap,” is a compelling reason to reduce the number of “must have” qualifications in your job listings.
If you focus too heavily on minimum years of work experience and specific degrees when crafting your job ads, you risk screening out stellar candidates who may have had a less traditional career path. Instead, seek out applicants with relevant skills and qualifications, and keep an open mind about resume gaps.
- Instead of requiring something like “minimum of 5 years of experience and a business degree,” list relevant skills and tasks they will need to perform in the role.
Make a statement about inclusion
To signal that your company is serious about gender inclusivity, add a statement to your job ads that outlines your commitment to equal opportunity. Many companies use a generic equal employment opportunity (EOE) statement for legal purposes, but highlighting this section can go a long way in helping women and gender non-comforming candidates get excited about applying for a role on your team.
- “At [Company Name], we welcome applications from all qualified candidates, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or any other characteristic protected by law. We firmly believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace encourages innovation, creativity, and collaboration.”
Consider candidates’ diverse needs
Another important component of gender-inclusive job descriptions is showing how your organization accommodates diverse candidates, including parents and caregivers. Employers with family-friendly benefits are more likely to receive applications from a wide range of candidates
- Describe benefits like flextime, family insurance plans, and parental leave.
- Avoid saying maternity/paternity leave — say parental or family leave instead.
The impact of gender-neutral job descriptions
Gender-neutral job descriptions help you extend an enthusiastic invitation to all potential candidates who might be interested in joining your team. And a more diverse candidate pool helps you build a more diverse team — a team that benefits from a wide variety of perspectives and life experiences.
Review your active job listings, and check for gender-coded language. Small, simple tweaks can make your job descriptions more gender-neutral and inclusive. For more tips and resources for growing your team, sign up for our newsletter.