What makes a word relate better to a male or a female? According to Kat Matfield, who created a gender decoder for job ads (http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com), “we all use language that is subtly “gender-coded” and this affects job advertising as well.
Matfield based her web-based tool on a study by professors from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Her goal is to remove gender bias in hiring, starting with the recruiting ads.
Before Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, many job ads were grouped under headings signifying the specific gender of the applicant. For example, stewardesses looked under the job listings for women and truck drivers could find carriers hiring under the listings for men.
Today, this practice is unconstitutional and the sex segregation of advertising no longer exists in theory. Gaucher, Freisen and Kay looked at whether the “gender of the ideal candidate is still conveyed, but more subtly, through wording in the advertisement that reflects broader cultural stereotypes.”
An example of a job ad in a male dominated occupation might use masculine language and claim the company has “dominance” in the market. A more gender neutral term, such as “excellence” in the market, could attract more women. The theory is that women use a more communal style of language and include more social and emotional words. They anticipated that women would find jobs with more masculine wording less appealing because it indicates less gender diversity and “signals to women that they do not belong in these occupations.”
After coding nearly 500 online job advertisements from typically male (plumber, engineer, security guard, etc.) and female dominated (bookkeeper, early childhood educator, registered nurse, etc.) careers, their findings were somewhat surprising. As expected, ads from male dominated occupations DID contain more masculine related words. However, they did not find a predominance of feminine related words in the female dominated careers.
The researchers then looked at 3,640 ads from on campus job postings at Waterloo University and found the same results. The ads for male dominated jobs contained more masculine words, but there was no difference in “female related” words for either type role.
The next step was in determining if women had less interest in jobs containing more masculine coded language. They interviewed 96 psychology students and asked them to rank job ads as appealing or not and whether the company might be a great place to work (or not). The result was that many more women did assume they would not “belong” in the role when masculine wording was evident. However, men showed no differences base on the way the ad was written.
What are the implications for the trucking industry? First, there is no evidence that gender-based wording is being included in recruiting ads intentionally. It does make it less likely that women will apply for the position because they do not feel it is inclusive. The study found that it “contributes to the division of traditional gender roles by dissuading women’s interest in jobs that are masculine worded.”
The authors did caution organizations to be careful in “feminizing” their ads, as it may also dissuade women who are less feminine to apply. This is sometimes the case within the trucking industry, where we have found female professional drivers to be more independent and often less stereotypical than their non-driving peers.
So, how can you be sure your recruiting ads won’t dissuade women, but are also appealing to men? Run them through Matfield’s gender decoder to make sure they will attract both men and women equally, at least through the initial contact.
If you want to hire more women, however, ask for the Women In Trucking’s Guide to Recruiting Female Drivers by calling 888-464-9482 or visit www.womenintrucking.org. Our goal is to be a resource for you in helping us increase the number of women employed in the trucking industry. You can help us by becoming a member.