I propose that we should examine gender norms and stereotypes and work on breaking them down. I think we’d all be happier and healthier. This isn’t to say that we should all be non-binary, but that we should recognise how damaging and limiting the gender roles are – and take conscious action to address them.
Which brings me to my next point: the impact of gender-coded language. Studies have shown that the use of masculine gender-coded language in job descriptions will cause women to self-select out of applying. This results in a high percentage of male applicants and thus a higher likelihood of hiring a man. This bias is seldom intentional and is often down to the gender of the person who wrote the job description. Surely it would be better to have a more balanced job description and widen the applicant pool as much as possible? There are lots of websites that offer a Gender Decoder – where you can paste your text and it will identify the percentage of masculine coded words versus feminine coded words, I’ve offered a couple of options in the Resources section.
But why limit this to your organisation’s interaction with talent? Why not give the same conscious consideration to your interactions with clients, customers and suppliers? Look at your forms and your websites – Are you accidentally not talking to only 50% of the population?
Finally, if you need to collect a person’s gender on your web or paper forms, please offer a gender neutral option. Don’t forget that “title” (Mr, Mrs etc) is also identifying a person’s gender. Either offer “Mx” (most common gender neutral term) or allow it to be an optional field. “Prefer not to say” is not a suitable alternative – you’re assuming I prefer not to tell you my gender. I’m actually very comfortable with telling you my gender, you have simply not offered me an option that allows me to tell you. “Other” is a poor option too – I have received emails to “Other Farrenson”. Suffice it to say that this clumsiness discourages me to give them my business!
Gender Coded and Inclusive Language
“Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality”, Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay 2011