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  • Writer's pictureEva Baluchova

Is your recruitment copy masculine or feminine, or even sexist?



One of the most prominent problems organisations have when trying to get people to buy into their ideas is how many and different they are. When candidates have a wide range of needs, goals, and preferences, it might be hard to use a one-size-fits-all strategy.


If you write a copy, you should pay attention to what you write. In fact, you have to make sure messages are correct and appropriate. So your words have more weight than the average person does.


In the previous blog post, we shared how being culture-sensitive in your copy pays off. So today, let's speak about gender sensitivity.


Several studies have shown that men and women respond differently to colors, visuals, subject matter, and even copy style. Failing to acknowledge that women write and react to writing differently than men is a formula for ineffective communication.


Regardless of feminism or equality. Nonetheless, it's crucial to remember that the following distinctions are generalisations:


One of the most significant gender differences is that we know that, in general, men are more interested in things, while women are more interested in people.


In terms of why we use the internet, Natalie writes in her book: and I'm quoting:

"evidence suggests that men go online for a wider variety of reasons than women, with gaming, betting, and entertainment (including pornography) topping the list. On the other hand, women are more likely to go online to communicate, make travel reservations, and interact on social media. In addition, men tend to be the heaviest users of video and music, both listening to and downloading more media than women. They also go online to research products in greater numbers and are more likely to use newsgroups."

Another theory says that male-oriented advertising copy should be straightforward, whereas female-oriented copy can provide context.


As it turns out, a language's grammatical gender can have significant and surprising effects on how people think and might perceive your message.


In one study, many people who speak the Slavik language personified the masculine days (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) as men and the feminine days (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) as women. However, they didn't know how to answer when they were asked why they did this.


For example, we know that the object's gender affected how the participants thought. People in Germany say the word "bridge" is feminine, but people in Spain say it's masculine. German speakers thought bridges were beautiful, elegant, fragile, pretty, slender, and Spanish speakers thought they were big, dangerous, intense, sturdy towering. So now, let's say you will be writing a job post when one of your pitches will be about relocating to "Amsterdam, the city of bridges ."You now might see that your pitch will be perceived very differently based on the reader, which might impact your pitch's effect.


Is your copy masculine or feminine, or even sexist?


Imagine your company is making a job description or a social media campaign to tell a meaningful employer story. And your target audience is female developers. You've done the hard work to develop a clever idea and figure out how to frame it. However, you're unaware that some of the terms or the imagery you've chosen, even if not ill-intended, come across as sexist. You and your campaign are doomed.


When I write tech jobs, I, for example, use tools https://joblint.org/ This tool will analyze your tech posts for issues with sexism, culture, expectations, and recruiter failures.


This tool can, for example, show you and make you aware of "Bro culture terminology."


"3+ years of 'hardcore' app building experience:…."


Which you, as a writer, should absolutely eliminate from your copy. Because Bro culture language can significantly decrease the number of people who express interest. It is a form of discrimination against anyone who does not fit neatly into a single gender archetype.



The second great tool I use for analyzing my job post is https://jobpagegrader.com which, besides other things, will also discover discrimination biases and not only gender-biased.


Where the tool would show you if you used language strongly coded toward the masculine with, for example, words such as "driven," "defend," "challenging," "lead," and "ping pong"... It would show you other discriminatory gendered terms, terms that may be seen as ageist - like words "energetic" "young team." It would find offensive and insensitive words in your copy as it would find terms that suggested discrimination based on disability or physical appeal.



Last but not least, I would use tools such as gender decoder.


Final Thoughts

Living in a post-sexist world with the worst gender bias behind us is a fantasy for many people. But this is not the case. However, we have not yet achieved complete freedom from gender stereotypes if gendered language patterns can impact our ideas — for example, by making a key appear friendlier or a bridge seems more sturdy.


Small, overlooked aspects of language can significantly impact our ideas, often in dramatic ways. Consider how other factors such as language, culture, and society might influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions in light of this knowledge.


Absolutely mind-blowing, don't you think?


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