Certain Wording in Job Advertisements May Keep Women from Applying

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By: Marie Donlon

According to a recent study from researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, using the wrong words in a job advertisement can discourage some women from applying.

Conducting an experimental study of 401 Belgian university student job seekers, the researchers observed how those looking for employment responded to wording in job advertisements.

According to the findings, female job seekers weren’t generally likely to apply for jobs where advertisements mentioned personality requirements in a trait-like way versus a task-directed way. For instance, women felt that sentences such as "You are calm/not nervous" were less encouraging than the task-directed "You always remain calm under pressure" — the distinction being that the former statement dealt in common female stereotypes.

"Job-seeking women might fear that they too will be judged stereotypically if they apply," explains researcher Lien Wille. "This underlines that the way job ads are written may have a discriminatory effect even when there is no discriminatory intent."

"These findings indicate that qualification-based targeted recruitment initiatives can backfire but that organizations might attract a high quality and gender-diverse applicant pool by 'getting the words right'," added researcher Eva Derous.

The study is published in the research journal Sex Roles.