Attracting a more diverse employee demographic has become a major priority for many organisations, particularly those in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as engineering, nuclear, IT and construction. But the drive to improve gender balance has to go beyond lip service or diversity targets; it must be embedded in a company’s employment culture.
The starting point for a more diverse workforce is recruitment practices designed to select candidates on the basis of their individual attributes, talents and suitability for the role. Many companies may already believe they are fulfilling those criteria but entrenched gender stereotypes often result in subtle gender bias in job ads, job descriptions and person specifications.
Research carried out by Totaljobs.com, involving a review of 76,000 ads over a six week period, found that job ads have an average of six gender-coded words; references which a study by the University of Waterloo in Canada and Duke University in the USA has identified as associated with gender stereotypes.
What this means in practice is that many organisations – sometimes unintentionally – are weighting the language they use towards attracting either male or female applicants. And, according to the Totaljobs.com research, the issue not only involves a gender-stereotyped split between different sectors but also accelerates with seniority, with ads for roles with titles such as ‘director’, ‘partner’, ‘chief’ or ‘head’ often featuring substantially more male-biased language.
So how can employers achieve genuine culture change within their organisations to ensure their recruitment reflects their diversity goals?
The first step is to understand the subtle ways in which gender-stereotyping can impact on your recruitment, even if it’s subconscious. When it comes to job ads, there is now a specialist software tool available that has been developed to improve gender balance within ads. An augmented writing platform for job posts, Textio, analyses the hiring outcomes of more than 10 million jobs posts per month and has been proven to improve gender diversity in recruitment.
The next is to be truly committed. We’ve already signed the ‘Inclusive Culture Pledge’ developed by diversity consultancy, EW Group, to help companies of all kinds to focus on areas of their business that will help them create a stronger working environment where diversity and inclusivity are prioritised and empowered. The move is designed to help us continue to implement the positive continuous change needed to achieve our goal of doubling the number of female contractors we hire by 2020.
We’re not just enthusiastic about the positive difference we can make to workplace diversity within our own organisation; we’re driven by it. On 10th April we hosted a seminar with University of Salford at MediaCityUK entitled ‘Championing gender diversity and equality in the tech industry’. The free event took the form of a roundtable debate about diversity and equality in the technology sector and how organisations can collaborate to overcome challenges and capitalise on fresh opportunities.
Gender diversity in the workplace has come a long way since the era of the typing pool and the all-male boardroom but there’s still a long way to go. At Morson, we’re clearly focused on making that positive change happen, for our own business and our clients.