Writing inclusive tech job adverts and why they matter

Frank Recruitment Group Director Danielle Ramsbottom looks at the importance of inclusive job adverts in the IT sector.

The benefits of hiring an inclusive workforce should be abundantly clear by now, but, unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and many companies still view the subject as little more than a box-ticking exercise.

Having a diverse workforce has a positive impact on your bottom line, and companies with better representation regularly outperform the competition and hit their targets. This is not mere speculation—the research is out there.

The use of language and choice of wording in a firm’s job adverts often informs a candidate’s first impression; how proficient you are at attracting a diverse set of applicants depends massively on that initial reaction.

To some, this will sound like a small part of a much larger issue. Canvas the world’s biggest tech brands–or any major brand for that matter–and you may well be asked whether making such changes will help make workplaces more genuinely inclusive.

In response, I’d ask any organisation, big or small, whether they’ve looked at or even considered the way their job adverts are written in relation to inclusivity.


Avoiding problematic language 

Our client base is made up of some of the biggest names in IT, and the good news is I’m quietly confident this is an issue that many are engaged with.

There is evidence out there that suggests leaders within the tech sector are changing their hiring policies and changing them for the better.

The Next Web reporter Cara Curtis gets under the skin of the issue while looking at AI-powered tools that can help you write inclusive job adverts, and her research reveals some interesting terms which are widely considered problematic.

Uncovered are words such as ambitious, boastful, workforce, dominate, hierarchical and chairman–all of which are flagged as divisive and all of which are commonly used despite the fact they may deter applicants.

The question of gendered language patterns in job ads is not a new concern. In 2016, Textio’s Kieran Snyder’s findings, after analysing more than 78,000 vacancies, are perhaps more relevant today given the continued expansion of tech across all platforms.

Their research suggested the way in which a vacancy posting is worded can have a radical impact on the number of male and female applicants, and also highlighted the inclusion of certain words that are viewed as masculine, and simply put women off.


Appealing to the broadest possible audience 

In response, Australian firm Atlassian—a $1.2 billion enterprise software company with headquarters in Sydney—went a step further and put their research to the test. The result saw their female technical hires boosted by as much as 80%.

For me, Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity Inclusion, Aubrey Blanche, hits the nail squarely on the head. “Silicon Valley perpetuates this idea that if your code works, that’s all that matters,” she says. “But empirical research suggests otherwise.

“What you see is that 20% of technical degrees today go to women. Yet at large tech companies, fewer than 20% of their engineering staff are women. About 11% of computer science degrees in the US are given to black and Hispanic students every year. Still, at most tech companies, less than 5% of workers —including non-technical employees—identify as black or Hispanic. 

“Those numbers say there’s something broken in the system. It’s pretty clear that our industry isn’t integrating all of the potential talent that’s out there.”

Of paramount importance in 2019 and beyond should be the appeal a job ad has to a wide variety of potential applicants. If companies are genuinely committed to this approach, there must be a widespread acceptance that language is the single most important factor when detailing vacancies.

Diversity and the skills gap

The tech sector is struggling to address the digital skills gap–this is not a secret–and there’s no question this is affecting companies of all shapes and sizes. Taking an inclusive approach to jobs adverts and encouraging a greater range of interest, therefore, becomes something of a no-brainer.

The imbalances referenced by Aubrey Blanche are issues at a grass-roots level, even though all of the evidence points towards the positive effect things like gender parity can have on the bottom line. Job adverts should be viewed as a company’s shop window—a snapshot of a firm’s culture and a chance to outline an organisation’s ethos.

How this is achieved comes back to wording – and the kind of language used to encourage applicants from across the board. Until this is acknowledged and addressed from the top down, the aforementioned skills gap will remain the sector’s biggest headache.

In a report from global law firm Baker McKenzie, titled Spotlight on the Gender Pay Gap in the US, the message from millennials is as stark as it is crystal clear. Around 80% said they wouldn’t consider applying for a role if they believed the company in question had a gender pay gap.

Equality across race and gender has never been more essential in the job market. If this figure tells us anything, it’s that promoting a positive employer brand from the outset and making the right first impression should be top of a firm’s priorities.


Danielle Ramsbottom is Director and Head of Strategic Alliances and Enterprise Sales for Frank Recruitment Group. She began her career in recruitment 19 years ago after graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in European Business, Spanish, and French.

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