A television ad featuring Pamela Anderson posing as a boss, which was banned in the UK, served as an example of sexism in the workplace. By creating a negative impression, it was not suitable for the average business.

Firstly, it showed a lack of strategic recruiting plans to make significant contributions to bottom-line profit goals for business growth.

Secondly, such advertising typifies a violation of basic tenets in recruiting employees: To establish a positive workplace culture and then inspire the best candidates to apply.

To that end, a company must make certain to create the best job descriptions to attract outstanding talent.

Furthermore, can we agree that a diverse workplace leads to innovation, problem-solving and enhanced enterprise communication? And, as you know, inequality is unlawful.

Why have there been so many companies that unknowingly, perhaps, promote sexism?

That’s right. An academic study showed that many job postings have been gender biased.

The report entitled, “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality,” was published in 2013 by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study was conducted by Danielle Gaucher and Justin Friesen at the University of Waterloo, and Aaron C. Kay at Duke University. (Professor Gaucher is now at Princeton University.)

Tech companies, for example, have a diversity problem. Women comprise only 11 percent of U.S. engineers and just 26 percent of computer programmers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the methodology, the researchers collected job-listing samples and divided them into two groups of professions – male dominated and female dominated.

They concluded that many companies appear to use gender-biased verbiage in their job listings. Though not explicit, such phraseology in recruitment advertisements serves as code words to women not to apply.

“Employing both archival and experimental analyses, the present research demonstrates that gendered wording commonly employed in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations,” wrote the authors.

… many companies appear to use gender-biased verbiage in their job listings.

Alleviating turnover

They also contend that such biased cultures lead to high attrition rates.

“It is plausible, then, that institutional-level barriers to women’s participation in male dominated domains occur most prominently at certain critical points,” explained the authors. “In the present research we focus on job recruitment as one of those critical points.”

Not to be an exercise in political correctness, the dubious words in-question are “competitive,” “dominant” and “leader.” They tend to connote power inequality in the workplace.

Typically, female-dominated workplaces don’t use such words.

Phrasing also plays a role, according to the researchers.

For example, a job ad that reads “someone to ‘analyze markets to determine appropriate selling prices’” is covertly masculine.

But to eliminate the possible perception of sexism by female applicants, the authors argue it would be better for the ad to state “the ideal candidate will ‘understand markets to establish appropriate selling prices.’”

Welcoming culture

The researchers point out the need to understand the motivation of women. Otherwise, they don’t feel they’re welcome.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that belongingness – feeling that one fits in with others within a particular domain – affects people’s achievement motivation specifically and engagement within a domain more generally, and that it can be signaled by cues in the environment,” added the authors.

So, if you’re having challenges recruiting for diversity, consider your tactics in job listings. Next, examine your culture to make certain it doesn’t have institutional bias.

These are the right things to do.

Read the study here.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested resource links:

Need to Hire a Professional? Advertising Tips to Attract the Best Talent — Whether your business has grown so you need to hire a key professional or you’re replacing a person, there are certain advertising-recruitment tips to use.

How to Rock Your Human Resources with Employee Referrals – Admittedly, there’s a myriad of ways to recruit great employees. But no recruitment option surpasses a well-executed, strategic employee-referral program.

In Tight Job Market, How to Market Your Company to Applicants – With the unemployment rate at the lowest it’s been in more than five decades and with seven-million unfilled jobs in America, this is a tight market for attracting talented employees. So, if you need to fill a position, the last thing you want is to be turned down by an applicant who appears to be a perfect fit for your culture.

How to Increase Conversion Rates of Online Job Applicants – Your business is not alone when it comes to the high costs incurred in the recruitment of job applicants online. Most job seekers get frustrated and quit in the middle of their online applications.

HR – Do you Partner with IT for Top Online Recruiting? – If you’re talented in recruiting the best talent, talented applicants will appreciate your talent. That underscores the need to partner with information technology in online recruiting.

Maximize Temporary Help Services for Talent Shortages – Whether you have seasonal peaks, special projects, sick workers or an unforeseen jump in business, a temporary help service might be your solution. Here are six tips for the best results.

Excellence: Doing a common thing in an uncommon way, enhancing the experience.


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.