5 easy ways to make your job ads gender-neutral

Don't accidentally alienate your best candidate

We often get asked how tech companies can improve their hiring practices and bring in more diversity. So we asked the lovely people at digital consultancy Red Badger, who have a 48:52 ratio of women to men (and are working hard on that last 2%), for their top 5 tips. Here’s how to make your job ads more inclusive.

Do you remember Dexter’s Laboratory? Well, in case you don’t, let’s recap. The basement-dwelling cartoon boy with ginger curls, thick glasses and a mad passion for science… a prototype tech-nerd. Dexter spends his time making life-changing technologies that fly, teleport, shrink and clone. In spite of his best efforts, he is plagued by his ditzy, blonde-haired sister DeeDee, who seems born to annoy him and scupper his genius.

Whilst Dexter’s Lab is long gone, the gender context that gave Dexter not DeeDee the keys to the basement doesn’t appear quite as ready to let go. Remarkably, one in ten London tech companies admit to having no female employees, and half of the 3,700 surveyed saying that less than 15% of their teams are women.

The questions as to why these kind of statistics exist in 2016 are never-ending. But when it comes to addressing an unbalanced workforce, with a proactive and conscious approach to your hiring policy, you have the power to make a change. The proof of that? Well, you’re sort of looking at it.

Team Red Badger

We’ve achieved a 48:52 ratio of female to male employees. This wasn’t something that we necessarily sought to achieve when we started out, we just wanted to do what we’re good at, and do it really well. By never assuming that this would mean hiring a load of Dexters, we’ve developed a team that’s quality-driven, and gender balanced.

It’s not been rocket science that’s got us here, either. It’s been fairly simple. One of the most treasured tools available to us is something that everyone has at their disposal. It’s not a lightsaber, nor is it a flying carpet, it’s just a plain old, text-filled job advert. A job advert provides the doorway to finding the right talent and the first point of contact that you’ll have with a future employee. It needs to be welcoming, true to your business and open to everyone who has the right skills and personality to join your journey. If you’ve built a door that’s only fit for a certain type of person, logic says that you’ll only ever get certain types of people walking through your door. The ultimate trick to any successful and balanced hiring policy is to create job adverts that favour talent and potential, not one gender.

With this last point in mind, we’ve put together our five key tips for writing gender-neutral job adverts that attract the right people matched to your business. It’s tried, tested and something we totally stand by.

1) No he/shes. Just yous

It might sound simple, but the first thing that has to be done in any successful, gender-neutral advert is to remove gendered articles. It’s tacit as well as overt.

Don’t force “he/she” or “his/hers” into the job description, just say “you” – after all, you’re talking to your new recruit, not their anatomy!

Two Badgers at work

2) Avoid gender-weighted words

Whether we’re aware of it or not, when it comes to reading, interpreting and digesting text, our subconscious plays a big part. It’s vital to remember that through language’s vast history, certain words have formed gender associations. For example, read the following two company descriptions, and see if you can tell which is less likely to receive applications from women:

A. We are a community of software engineers, visual designers and UXers who have long-lasting relationships with many happy clients. We are committed to pushing the boundaries of the sector and doing great work for the right reasons.

B. We are a dominant software development consultancy that boasts many leading clients. We are determined to stand apart from the competition. We do the right thing, for the right reasons, all the time.

The way that you direct your language in a job advert is critical in keeping it gender neutral. For example, by describing your company as ideal for ‘independent thinkers’ as opposed to ‘ruthless people’, you eliminate the potential risk of your company appearing more suited to or populated by men.

3) Be fun, not an advert for Carlsberg

Badgers at breakkie

A common trick in attempting to stand out from the crowd can be to emphasise positive elements of a company culture; ‘Work hard, play hard!’. But what’s not often said with this tactic is that you’re implying the job requires a certain level of after-work time. Working parents or people with a lot of demands on their time may not wish to commit themselves to such a culture. Of course, you’d never force someone to join you after work, but some may view your opportunity as a potential hassle, or even a reason not to apply.

If you’re fun, emphasise the support, benefits and personality that your company has, not its capacity to drink!

4) Listen to the research

When it comes to the psychology of a job application, there’s tonnes of research that can help you understand the mindset of potential candidates. By using the resources available to you and staying up to date with hiring trends, you stand a far better chance of being able to speak to candidates on their level.


For example, previous data documenting a lack of self-confidence in female applicants might raise questions as to how your job adverts are written. To counteract this, you might want to combine the details of your vacancy with a solid emphasis on training, development and growth to reassure those unsure it’s worth applying.

Of course, no research should be considered gospel on its own, but it can go a long way towards keeping you informed as to how the people you want to hire think, act and apply.

5) Embrace the tools out there

Hard at work!

If you’re looking for that last-minute piece of reassurance that all gender and social bases are covered, you’re not alone. Tools such as that developed by Kat Matfield, which flags up gender-weighted language, should ensure that you always remain on neutral ground. To use Matfield’s tool, just copy and paste your ad into the text box, click ‘check this ad’, and voilà! It will generate a mini report documenting any gender-weighted words.

Not only this, being creative with the job posting tools at your disposal will go some way to boosting the demographic variants of your applicant pools. For example, using job boards such as Women in Technology will ensure that you are reaching out to specific, targeted demographics that have the skills needed to succeed in your operation.

These simple steps to create a gender neutral job advert are easy to implement and can be that first stepping stone to achieving a more gender neutral workplace; something which has been found to help boost profit, enhance productivity and ensure a more diverse set of skills. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

Want to hear more from Red Badger? Follow them on Twitter: @redbadgerteam

Main image: Pexels/StartupStockPhotos. All other images courtesy of Red Badger.