Gender bias in job adverts.

We’re looking for lots of digital people to come and join us @CoopDigital and I’m helping to find them. I was interested to see if there was any link between the gender of the writer of a job advert to that of the applicants. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

Content Designer

  • Advert written solely by a female
  • Total applications received: 25
  • Female applicants: 13
  • Male applicants: 12
  • This means 52% of applications are from women


 Digital Delivery Manager

  • Advert written collaboratively between female and male colleagues
  • Total applications received: 17
  • Female: 3
  • Male: 14
  • Only 18% of applications are from women.

Product Manager

  • Advert written solely by male colleague
  • Total applications received: 40
  • Female: 5
  • Male: 35
  • Only 12.5% of applications are from females.

Looking at the stats above there appears to be a link between the gender of the writer and the diversity of the applicants.

So how to tackle this? 

There is some great research surrounding gender bias within job adverts. The Women’s College Coalition found that men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, while women wait until they feel they meet 100%. We should definitely consider this when writing future adverts. Do we really need all 10 bullet points highlighting role accountabilities? Could we scale down to just 5 and open ourselves up to more relevant and diverse applications?

What about the look of the advert? The colour, format and font used? All things to consider and I’m to go away and do more research on this.

I am going to use this gender decoder to check all new job adverts. The study that it was based on found that masculine-coded language puts women off more and that the effect on feminine-coded language on male applicants is only slight. Here are some blog posts on the subject that inspired the tool:

I’d be interested to hear any experiences or findings anyone else may have on this subject.

Polly Haslam

Our latest vacancies
Product Managers (applications now closed)
Delivery Managers (applications now closed)
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13 thoughts on “Gender bias in job adverts.

  1. foobar March 15, 2016 / 1:17 am

    Don’t you think that maybe the job itself may have had an impact on the number of applicants? Why not have the same breakdown (with regards to who wrote the advert), but keep the same job?


  2. Elizabeth Platt March 15, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    I don’t think you can compare different Jobs in such a stark way. I believe the nature of those Jobs is too wide ranging to be a fair comparison at this point. Certainly more research is encouraged to reflect this:

    Click to access gendered-wording-in-job-ads.pdf

    I think a more accurate assessment would be to take the same job, one ad written up by male only, one version by female only and a third version is mixed. Then advertise in exactly the same way to see how it stacks up.
    There is a major difference between the fact that the Job titles in the latter two both have “manager” whereas the female-centric on is a design role. The results could be a reflection that women are less likely to apply for a Job with direct reports in some instances? That hypothesis needs to be tested out in a controlled way.


    • gailalyon March 15, 2016 / 8:25 pm

      Yes definitely, there’s a lot more variables to look at, and we will do.


  3. Amali de Alwis (@amali_d) March 15, 2016 / 2:18 pm

    Hi Polly, I really like the concept of what you’re doing here. My challenge is that until you have the same type of spec written by both men and women, you have no comparison. Reason being the difference in application rates could well be driven by the role not the brief (e.g. One could argue that content designer roles get more female applicants than product managers). Will be interested to see what happens when you have comparable data.


    • gailalyon March 15, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Yes agreed – we will keep working on this.


  4. Liz March 15, 2016 / 2:56 pm

    Load more women would want to be content designers. It’s nothing to do with the person that wrote the ad.


    • gailalyon March 15, 2016 / 8:23 pm

      That’s interesting Liz – why do you think that?


  5. Fiona R March 16, 2016 / 11:51 am

    It’s interesting to consider the gender of the advert writer, and not something which I’ve considered before. I tend to find that for certain roles I’m recruiting, I get a higher percentage of women, vs other types of roles where I get a higher percentage of men, but I’d never considered that perhaps this was also down to how I write the ad, vs how one of my male colleagues might write the ad. (I’d love to try it out, but I’m too much of a grammatical control freak when it comes to writing my own ads!) Would be really interested to hear what else you find as a result of this.


  6. John March 16, 2016 / 1:50 pm

    Apples and oranges. As others have suggested, you need to write two ads for the same vacancy and then see what happens. I think you will find a difference and that’s important, but drawing conclusions from anecdata weakens your stance considerably.


  7. Liz Kingston March 16, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    I think it’s about creating inclusivity through language and encouraging applicants to not feel they have to be able to fulfill every aspect of a spec – it’s about stretching talent and measuring their success by growth & achievement – something that the Co-op doing brilliantly!


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