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    3 in 5 UK industries are still sexist towards female applicants – but Admin a leader in gender-neutral language

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    Despite the best efforts of pro-diversity and equal opportunity drives, it would seem that three out of five industries are still sexist towards female applicants.

    New data from job ads search engine specialist Adzuna.co.uk has revealed the level of gender-bias across the UK’s job market and its industries through gender-coded language present in job ads.

    According to a study by Gaucher, Friesen and Kay, gendered wording in job ads has the effect of steering applicants to apply according to their sex; male-coded words such as ‘lead’ and ‘dominant’ encourage a higher number of male applicants to female applicants, whereas female-coded words such as ‘sensitive’ and ‘affectionate’ attract more female talent.

    Adzuna searched for a selection of 170 traditionally masculine and feminine words cited in the Gaucher, Friesen and Kay study within 1.2 million job ads every year from 2018 to 2014. The study discovered each job ad in the UK uses on average 17 per cent more male than female-biased words. This bias is widespread across multiple sectors, with 60 per cent of all UK industries exhibiting significant male-bias within their job ads.

    The UK’s most biased industries according to gendered job ad language

    Consultancy, Property, Sales, Maintenance and Travel industries proved to be the most actively discouraging towards female applicants, with each industry using 50 per cent or more male than female-biased words in their job ads.

    While the Sales industry has seen some progress, falling from 84 per cent (2014) to 50 per cent (2018), job ads within Consultancy, Property, Maintenance and Travel industries have seen an increase in the use of male-coded words. These industries now use 72 per cent, 54 per cent, 51 per cent and 46 per cent respectively more male than female-biased language.

    On the contrary, the industries with the most female-biased language in job ads in 2018 are Domestic Help & Cleaning (60 per cent), Teaching (38 per cent), Social Work (30 per cent), Charity & Voluntary (27 per cent) and Healthcare & Nursing (12 per cent).

    The UK’s most neutral industries according to gendered job ad language

    The Admin industry hasn’t varied more than eight per cent (2014) away from gendered wording over the past five years. In 2015, job ads in the Admin industry were completely gender free. However, the most neutral industry in 2018 was Retail, which used five per cent more female-coded words than male-coded words. This is a quick turnaround, as in 2015, the Retail industry was using 50 per cent more male than female-coded words.

    Time has encouraged progress

    Since 2014, job ads in the UK have seen the usage of masculine-coded words drop by 10 per cent, from 27 per cent to 17 per cent more male-to-female words. The decline has been consistent since 2015, with it falling by 13 per cent in the last four years.

    This trend is echoed across all job industries within the UK, with 78 per cent moving towards neutral wording over the last five years, and only 19 per cent of industries in the UK becoming more male-biased in their wording.

    Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, commented: “With studies showing the use of such ‘masculine’ words in job ads directly discourage female applicants and our data revealing 60 per cent of job ads are sexist towards women by using male-biased language, UK industries need to be more conscious about language during their recruitment process,” said Adzuna’s co-founder Andrew Hunter.

    “Gendered wording in job adverts can have the effect of supporting the gender imbalance within industries that are already perceived as being male-dominated. While it is encouraging to see a general trend towards neutral language over the past few years, several industries need to make more of an active effort to combat gender-bias within their ads in order to subliminally encourage female talent.

    “Unconscious bias may lead to accidental discrimination, but there is no excuse in 2019. It’s time for employers to go back to the drawing board and redesign their recruitment basics in order to keep up with the times. We’re already seeing movement being made towards gender equality when it comes to pay; why should attracting talent be any different?”

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    Katy Phillips


    All stories by: Katy Phillips