Research shows removing all gender-coded words from your job descriptions boosts apply rates by 29% and decreases cost per application by 41% (source — Appcast).

These findings might make you curious about how to write a gender neutral job description. In this post, I’ll dig into 3 tips for writing gender neutral JDs.

But first, let’s define what gender neutral job description means.

What is a gender neutral job description?

The answer to this question may be different depending on who you ask. But for the purposes of this post, here’s a great definition of neutral job descriptions:

“A gender-neutral job description removes vocabulary, terminology and structure that could be
considered as biased towards one gender or another. It is a lot more than removing pronouns!”

source: British International Investment — Gender Toolkit

How to Write a Gender Neutral Job Description [3 tips]

Now that we’ve defined a gender neutral job description, here are 3 tips for writing them.

1. Use gender neutral job titles

Job titles are the first thing a candidate notices during their job search. So if you want to be “gender neutral,” start with your job title. Remove any references to one specific gender.

For example, if you do a quick search on Indeed, you’ll notice hundreds of job titles still use the word “man.” And some are female-coded like “Hostess,” “Barmaid,” and “Stewardess.”

These types of titles assume gender identification and exclude people who are gender non-binary.

Here’s a helpful table to use as a reference for replacing these gender-coded titles with more gender-neutral ones:

Instead of this…Consider this…
1Anchorman/AnchorwomanAnchor
2Assemblyman/AssemblywomanAssemblyperson
3Businessman/BusinesswomanBusinessperson
4Cameraman/Camera womanCamera Operator
5Chairman/ChairwomanChair, Chairperson
6Clergyman/ClergywomanMinister, Pastor
7Congressman/CongresswomanMember of Congress
8CouncilmanCouncil Member
9CraftsmanArtisan
10CrewmanCrew Member
11DoormanDoor Keeper, Door Attendant
12FiremanFirefighter
13ForemanSupervisor, Boss
14Garbage ManTrash Collector
15HandymanMaintenance Person, Fixer
16LongshoremanStevedore
17MailmanPostal Worker, Letter/Mail Carrier
18Maintenance ManJanitor, Caretaker
19PatrolmanPolice Officer
20Pizza Man/Pizza LadyPizza Person
21PolicemanPolice Officer
22SalesmanSalesperson
23Steward/StewardessFlight Attendant
24Stuntman/StuntwomanStuntperson
25WeathermanMeteorologist
source: Ongig

2. Remove gender-coded words

Outside of job titles, the words you use in your JDs matter. A 2021 study on gendered wording found:

“Male-coded words decrease applications per job by 11% and increase CPA (cost per application) by 47%.”

and

“Female-coded words decrease applications per job by 10% (and increases CPA (cost per application) by 26%).”

source: Appcast — The Impact of Gendered Wording on Candidate Attraction

So, if male and female-coded words are keeping candidates from applying (and costing you more), you probably want to know how to write a gender neutral job description (free from ANY gender-coded words). Right?

Removing gender-coded words helps you attract more gender-diverse candidates. But how do you know which words are gender-coded vs. gender-neutral?

Here are 10 of the most-used male-coded and female-coded words (in job descriptions):

Male-Coded WordsFemale-Coded Words
strongsupport
lead — includes leader(s)share
analysis — includes analyze and analyticalresponsible
individual(s)understand (or understanding)
decisions(s)together
drivencommitted
competitiveinterpersonal
expertfeel
objectivescollaborate (or collaboration)
principlesconnect
source: Ongig

Other gender-coded words you find more in modern job descriptions are “ninja” and “rockstar.” You might be better off replacing them with something like “pro” or “star” if you want more gender neutral job descriptions.

3. Use a gender neutral job descriptions tool

Some co.s create a list of gender neutral words for job descriptions as a reference for hiring managers (or recruiters) who write job descriptions. Removing gender-coded words manually is doable. But using software to do it for you saves loads of time.

Ongig and other similar tools automatically flag gender coded words and offer replacements (without gender bias) to help you write more gender neutral job descriptions.

Here’s a before and after example of a Customer Service Rep role in Ongig. The 1st image shows 60% masculine-coded words (and a couple of feminine-coded words too). The 2nd image shows zero male or female coded words and a 100% gender neutrality score:

It took me less than 2 minutes (and 5 clicks) to remove the gender-coded words and create a gender neutral job description.

Ongig also flags exclusionary words like pronouns “he,” “she,” “him,” and “her” that might keep candidates from the LGBTQIA+ community from applying:

Swapping gendered pronouns for non-gendered ones also helps create more gender neutral job descriptions.

Why I wrote this:

Ongig’s mission is to create effective and inclusive job descriptions. Our software shows you how to write a gender neutral job description with just a few clicks. Please request a demo to learn more.

Shout-outs:

  1. The Impact of Gendered Wording on Candidate Attraction (by Appcast)
  2. British International Investment — Gender Toolkit
  3. Gender-Neutral Terms for the Workplace & Beyond (by Cara Hutto)

by in Job Descriptions

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