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Looking at how job-ads are phrased – Are female applicants deliberately discouraged?

It’s been almost eight years now since the anti-discrimination law (AGG) has gone into effect. Since then, anyone suspecting discrimination in the work field can, among other things, take companies to court over it. The law and related guidelines aim to protect several groups who are often subtly disadvantaged in our society against discrimination. In the work place that included and includes especially women, even though looking at numbers of workers, they are even in a slight majority.


Here, we will look at the kind of phrases commonly used in job advertisements, which represents the beginning of the recruitment process, hopefully leading to a successful placement. In the technical field and leadership positions especially, you often get the feeling that female candidates are not wanted and certain phrases are specifically chosen to keep them away.


At first glance a subtle effect at best, this phenomenon has been subject of a scientific study conducted by the Munich Technical University recently. 260 students took part in the study. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups and then presented with fake job ads. The ads of once group used mainly “male” expressions like “analytical” or “resolute”. Such expressions have a tendency to put off women, because they are (by both genders) generally viewed as being more “male” according to stereotypical gender roles. The second group were presented with job ads asking for more typically “female” traits like “sociable” or “responsible”. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that these ads were far more appealing to women in the second group. However, the scientists also discovered that the male participants, in contrast to their female peers, showed no preference for certain traits.


The study summary states that women feel much less confident about leadership positions than men. This self-assessment, though, is not based on any objective facts or skills. So, companies that want a good number of applications from qualified women need to put additional effort into both the phrasing and the design of their job-ads. A good balance is always necessary for creating and ad which appeals to both male and female candidates. Without it, human resources will unlikely be able to fill a position with the best candidate.

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Herr Daniel Stock d.stock(@)top-jobs-europe.de