If you want to attract more female candidates, a good place to start is to eliminate your job description gender bias.

Job description gender bias is the easiest lever for you to pull to hire more women.

The 80/20 Rule is in effect here. Well, almost.

You can remove about 70% of job description gender bias by changing just 7 of the most commonly used masculine words.

We tasked Ongig’s Text Analyzer job description software to evaluate 647,512 instances of masculine gender bias in job descriptions.

job description gender bias

Below are the top 7 masculine gender-biased words Text Analyzer found. Most of these gender bias examples are what folks call “implicit bias” (or “unconscious bias”).

In other words, your recruiter or hiring manager writing the JD didn’t mean to turn off female candidates. They just inadvertently use words that repel some women.

Fixes are easy.

I’ve listed the 7 top masculine gender-biased words in order of the frequency Ongig found they occur in job postings. I also include the frequency they occur on Indeed job postings for comparison.

And for each of the 7 offenders, I list a couple of the best gender bias-free synonyms to use instead.

For more tips on writing job descriptions, check out our How to Write a Job Description — Best Practices & Examples.


Gender Bias Word #1: “Strong”

# of jobs on Indeed.com that contain this: 1,562,836

The word “strong” is a common adjective in job descriptions. Many of you use it to describe skills/qualities you’re looking for:

“strong communication”

“strong written skills”

“strong desire”

Here are gender bias-free synonyms to use in place of “strong”.

  • proven
  • sound
  • solid

Gender Bias Word #2: “Drive”

# of jobs on Indeed.com that contain this: 911,365

The word “drive” is often used in job descriptions as a power verb to describe movement employers want to see a candidate make. Examples:

“Drive sales”

“Drive end-to-end processes…”

“Drive recruitment and resources…”

It’s also used a noun to describe the quality employers want in a hire:

“You have a competitive drive…”

Here are gender bias-free words to swap in for “drive”:

  • run
  • steer
  • deliver
  • energy, motor (in the case of nouns)

Gender Bias Word #3: “Lead”

# of jobs on Indeed.com that contain this: 957,235

“Lead” is used by many of you to describe managing or running something. Examples:

“Lead sales”

“Lead status review”

“Lead projects”

Lead is also used in other instances like:

“Project Lead”

“Lead Developer”

“Analytical Lead”

Gender Bias-free words to use instead are:

  • Run
  • Manage
  • Grow

Gender Bias Word #4: “Analysis”

# of jobs on Indeed.com that contain this: 448,169

“Analysis” is used in myriad ways:

“Make recommendations based on detailed analysis”

“Provide qualitative analysis”

“Conduct data analysis”

Here are some gender bias-free words to swap in:

  • Research
  • Testing
  • Scrutiny

Gender Bias Word #5: “Individuals”

# of jobs on Indeed.com that contain this: 1,568,407

“Individuals” is often used in job descriptions as a synonym for candidates/employees such as:

“We offer growth potential for motivated individuals”

“We are looking for talented, hard-working individuals”

“[Name of Employer] seeks individuals who will thrive…”

Here are a couple of gender bias-free words to use instead:

  • People
  • Team members

Masculine Bias Word #6: “Decisions”

Occurrences on Indeed.com: 754,219

“Decisions” is a favorite adjective used in job descriptions. Examples include:

  • “We are a team where data drives our decisions”
  • “Ability to make decisions quickly”
  • “You are the driver of business decisions”

You might swap in these gender bias-free words instead:

  • Actions
  • Moves

Gender Bias Word #7: “Competitive”

Occurrences on Indeed.com: 951,167

“Competitive” is often used to describe compensation you offer or the quality of candidate you’re looking for. Examples include:

  • “We offer competitive pay and bonus plan”
  • “Come experience a high-energy, competitive environment”
  • “You are a competitive person who plays to win”

Some gender bias-free words to use instead:

  • Attractive
  • Fair
  • Results-oriented

Gender Bias Word #8: “Tackle”

”Tackle” is a word with implications of aggression and physical violence; in job descriptions, you might use it to describe the types of behavior you look for in a candidate. For example:

”Our team is looking for an individual who will tackle assignments with enthusiasm”

”The ideal candidate will tackle our backlog of new client leads”

Some gender-neutral verbs you could instead:

  • Take on
  • Solve
  • Approach

Gender Bias Word #9: “Independent”

Employers use “independent” or “independently” to describe a candidate who works well alone, leads a team, and/or does well without supervision. This may be interpreted as masculine-coded in contrast to teamwork and people-focused skills, which are seen as feminine-coded. Here are some examples of how “independent” might be used in a job description:

”Seeking an independent, driven individual who works well alone”

”You must be able to work independently and assertively”

”Be comfortable working independently”

Some gender-neutral adjectives and adverbs you could use instead:

  • Focused
  • Confident
  • Competent
  • Introverted

Gender Bias Word #10: “Objective”

Employers may use “objective” as a noun (to describe mission aims or KPIs) or as an adjective (to describe neutrality and equanimity as a desirable candidate trait). Here are a few examples of how employers might use this word:

”We are looking for an objective, analytical auditor to join our team”

”The main objective for this role is…”

”Must be able to review proposals with objectivity”

Some gender-bias free substitutes include:

  • Equanimity
  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Goals
  • Fairness

Why Remove Job Description Gender Bias?

Gender bias persists in every stage of employment, from inequality in hiring to unfair parental leave practices. Gender inequality is a complex problem, with causes from the systemic to the social. Employers can’t be expected to solve gender inequality alone, but it is our responsibility to do what we can to eliminate prejudice, bias, and discrimination in the hiring process.

Gender inequality persists in hiring in a variety of ways. Some managers have unconscious biases about women. Even if the human resources team has training in gender bias, that work could be undermined by individual hiring managers across the organization, who may not have the same training or buy-in.

One of the most common forms of gender bias in hiring is in the gender-coded language of job descriptions. In many cases, a job description is the first thing a candidate sees when considering whether or not to apply to work with your organization. Unfortunately, job descriptions often contain an imbalance of gendered language (for example, a majority of masculine-coded language and very little feminine-coded language) or other evidence of bias against female applicants.

Many masculine-coded words may seem neutral upon first glance. But when taken in context, particularly when there are many of these words and phrases, they discourage female applicants and subtly communicate that your organization does not prioritize an inclusive workplace. 

Recruiting women can be fraught; generally, women don’t apply for a job unless they feel they are 100% qualified, whereas men apply if they are only 60% qualified. Female applicants pick up on hints that your workplace may not be inclusive for women. Research shows that job descriptions that contain many masculine-coded words receive fewer applications. After removing gendered language, organizations see their cost per application go down approximately 41%.

There are so many compelling reasons to remove biased language from your job descriptions. It makes financial sense and it streamlines the hiring process by ensuring more qualified applicants actually apply. But most importantly, it is simply the right thing to do. Promoting job titles and job listings that are written with inclusive language shows that you don’t endorse gender stereotypes and that you’re ready to hire qualified women.

Ongig’s Text Analyzer reviews the text of job descriptions in search of gendered language and other unconscious bias. Our AI-powered tool pinpoints problematic areas and suggests gender-neutral and unbiased replacements for existing language. It couldn’t be easier to make your job descriptions inclusive to all. Reach out to us today for a demo!

If you enjoyed this article, you might check out these 4 Diversity tools to write more inclusive content.

Learn more about job description gender bias and how Ongig’s Text Analyzer can help you eliminate it.

by in Writing Job Descriptions