Five steps for creating inclusive job descriptions
Employers are coming to realize in increasing numbers the importance and value of creating job descriptions that reflect inclusivity. Carefully drafting descriptions to avoid traditional gender-based biases leads to many benefits, including promoting gender diversity and bolstering your recruitment efforts by attracting more qualified applicants for your open position.
Step 1: Eliminate gender-bias
There are several steps employers can take to eliminate gender bias in their job descriptions.
Start by eliminating gender-specific pronouns such as “he” and “she” in job descriptions, recognizing that gender is not always binary. Using traditional male/female terminology may offend qualified applicants who identify another way and cause them not to apply.
To ensure gender neutrality, an employer may replace those pronouns with “they” or “you,” or may simply use the job title. For example, “he or she will have the following responsibilities” may be changed to “they will have the following responsibilities” or “the project manager will have the following responsibilities.”
Certain words may communicate traditionally male-oriented characteristics, such as “rockstar,” “hero,” “determined,” and “analytical.” Excessive superlative language such as “expert” and “world class” may subtly alienate women, who tend to be more collaborative than competitive. Such language may either be avoided completely or balanced with characteristics traditionally associated with females, such as “supportive” and “cooperative.”
Another means of increasing gender diversity of applicants to a job is to identify which requirements are absolutely necessary for the position and which are simply nice to have. Research has shown that men will apply for a job if they believe they meet 60 percent of the requirements, while women tend not to apply unless they meet 100 percent of the requirements. Thus, differentiating between those requirements which are mandatory and which are simply preferred should result in a broader pool of applicants.
Step 2: Reconsider educational requirements
Employers also may consider reevaluating their approach to educational requirements. Is a four-year degree truly vital to the role, or has that just been included out of tradition? Research has shown that educational requirements disproportionately affect skilled black candidates because they are less likely to have a degree than their white counterparts.
Does the job description list a preferred major from school? Certain majors attract certain genders, so employers may want to determine whether one particular major is essential to the role. In determining which qualifications are “must-have’s,” ask yourself whether the job could possibly be performed without them. If so, those should instead be listed as preferred.
Step 3: Include company values
If your company is truly dedicated to diversity, you may consider expressly discussing your well-defined company values in the job description, particularly those related to equality and diversity. A diverse group of candidates may be more likely to apply for jobs at a company at which they know they will feel welcome. They will understand that your company is more likely to be dedicated to eliminating traditional salary discrepancies and more likely to train their colleagues on the benefits of diversity and equality.
Explaining company values within the job description may also attract other diverse candidates with similar values because they know what the company stands for. Candidates who will not fit in well with the company values and culture may be less likely to apply, thereby reducing turnover and associated costs. These values may be sprinkled throughout the job description or stated in one specific, dedicated section.
Step 4: Highlight programs and activities
The job description also allows the company the opportunity to highlight programs and activities that may be more attractive to diverse group of applicants. Does your company offer volunteer activities? What about family-friendly benefits such as childcare subsidies, flextime, remote work, and parental leave?
Step 5: Don’t perpetuate previous practices unnecessarily
Finally, review your job descriptions as a whole for the perpetuation of previous practices. Often, job descriptions are copied from previous postings, sometimes for decades. While this may save time, it prevents the company from taking advantage of a prime chance to attract a diverse group of candidates and thereby expand the candidate pool in a positive way. Those preparing descriptions should be trained on those benefits and how to reflect them in the postings.
Hiring decisions that reflect and promote the benefits of diversity in the workplace enrich the company, its customers, its partners, and its workforce. Job descriptions are an early and valuable opportunity to steer the workforce in a positive direction.