“Ninja, Unicorn, Rockstar” – Okay on a Beer Can, Not in a Job Posting

May 16, 2019

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, MassBio

As companies set out to enhance values around D&I, one glaring disparity keeps coming to light: How can a company promote diversity in its workforce, when its job postings contain biases? We have laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, or veteran status. However, whether inadvertent or purposeful, job listings exist that adhere to stereotypes, and as a result, discourage those from underrepresented groups from applying.

As history has proven, people inherently associate certain words with genders, behaviors, backgrounds, etc. So, how can you remove gender discrimination in job postings? Rewrite them.

Are you looking to hire a “Ninja,” or an experienced candidate?

The first step to inclusive hiring is to remove gendered terminology from your listings. According to Society for Human Resource Management, adjectives often associated with masculinity, like “competitive” or “determined” can dissuade women from applying because they believe they would not belong in that work environment. Conversely, “cooperative” and “collaborative” tend to attract more women and turn away men. Employers should instead advertise job openings with neutral, straightforward titles, such as “Engineer” or “Associate,” instead of “Ninja” or “Rockstar.” GlassDoor also suggests companies avoid superlatives, like “expert,” “superior,” or “world class.” Females are more collaborative than competitive and are less likely to brag about their accomplishments compared to men, so adjectives of this nature are more likely to turn women off from applying.

“Must Have” vs Superfluous Job Requirements

Step two in promoting inclusivity in hiring: only list requirements that are necessary for the role. Research shows that women won’t apply or a job unless they are 100% qualified, while men will apply with confidence with 60% of qualifications. To avoid limiting your pool of applicants, really consider the requirements for the job. Determine which are necessities and which are “nice to haves”.

Technology Can Help

To truly ensure your job listing will attract relevant candidates, online tools have been developed that automatically scan job descriptions for biased language. The Harvard Business School reports that these tools will analyze your descriptions and report on the prevalence of masculine or feminine-related words.

To learn more about how technology can address inequality in hiring, I reached out to Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder of Cambridge-based Scismic – a job-matching platform built to create the best candidate-to-job-match.

“Innovation is strongly fostered by racial and gender diversity of the industry workforce. However, current recruiting practices impose biases on candidate evaluation. In the biotech industry, African American and Hispanic people account for only 13% of the workforce, despite making up 31% of the US population. Yet, over 60% of biotechs in Massachusetts, where 25% of all US biotechs are located, do not have formal Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives. This means the best scientist does not always make it to the right job because certain groups are excluded from the candidate evaluation process. Lack of diversity has huge implications on therapeutic development and delays scientific innovation. It is therefore essential to create new ways to build diverse scientific teams and address the barriers that biotech companies face in creating a diverse workspace.

There are currently no widely accessible and scalable services in the biotech industry that address diversity at the recruiting stage for scientists. Recognizing this issue, Scismic strives to promote diversity in scientific hiring through its gender- and race-blind matching algorithm. We’re also developing diversity-promoting features that remove proven sources of biases from the initial screening stages and delaying the introduction of human biases in the candidate evaluation process.”

Without intervention or an active effort on behalf of companies, unconscious bias will remain ingrained in hiring. To truly promote D&I values, opt for gender-neutral, bias-free job postings from the start and watch your pool of potential candidates flourish and diversity thrive.

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