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3 in 5 UK industries are sexist towards female applicants

New data from Adzuna.co.uk has revealed the level of gender-bias throughout the UK’s job market and its industries through gender-coded language present in job adverts.

  • 60% of UK industries exhibit male-bias within their job ads
  • Overall, job ads contain 17% more male-biased than female-biased language
  • Industries with the most male-biased language are Consultancy, Property, Maintenance, Sales and Travel

New data from Adzuna.co.uk has revealed the level of gender-bias throughout the UK’s job market and its industries through gender-coded language present in job adverts.

According to a study by Gaucher, Friesen and Kay*, gendered wording in job adverts has the effect of steering applicants to apply according to their sex; male-coded words such as ‘lead’ and ‘dominant’ encourage a higher number of male applicants to female applicants, whereas female-coded words such as ‘sensitive’ and ‘affectionate’ attract more female talent.

Adzuna searched for a selection of 170 traditionally masculine and feminine words cited in the Gaucher, Friesen and Kay study within 1.2million job adverts every year from 2018 to 2014. The study discovered each job advert in the UK uses on average 17% more male than female-biased words. This bias is widespread across multiple sectors, with 60% of all UK industries exhibiting significant male-bias within their job ads.

The UK's most biased industries according to gendered job ad language

Consultancy, Property, Sales, Maintenance and Travel industries proved to be the most actively discouraging towards female applicants with each industry using 50% or more male than female-biased words in their job ads. While the Sales industry has seen some progress, falling from 84% (2014) to 50% (2018), job ads within Consultancy, Property, Maintenance and Travel industries have seen an increase in the use of male-coded words. These industries now use 72%, 54%, 51% and 46% respectively more male than female-biased language.

On the contrary, the industries with the most female-biased language in job adverts in 2018 are Domestic Help & Cleaning (60%), Teaching (38%), Social Work (30%), Charity & Voluntary (27%) and Healthcare & Nursing (12%).

The UK's most neutral industries according to gendered job ad language

The Admin industry hasn’t varied more than 8% (2014) away from gendered wording over the past 5 years. In 2015, job ads in the Admin industry were completely gender free. However, the most neutral industry in 2018 was Retail, which used 5% more female-coded words than male-coded words. This is a quick turnaround, as in 2015, the Retail industry was using 50% more male than female-coded words.

Time has encouraged progress

Since 2014, job ads in the UK have seen the usage of masculine-coded words drop by 10%, from 27% to 17% more male-to-female words. The decline has been consistent since 2015, with it falling by 13% in the last four years.

This trend is echoed across all job industries within the UK, with 78% moving towards neutral wording over the last five years, and only 19% of industries in the UK becoming more male-biased in their wording.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, commented:

“With studies showing the use of such ‘masculine’ words in job ads directly discourage female applicants and our data revealing 60% of job ads are sexist towards women by using male-biased language, UK industries need to be more conscious about language during their recruitment process.

“Gendered wording in job adverts can have the effect of supporting the gender imbalance within industries that are already perceived as being male-dominated. While it is encouraging to see a general trend towards neutral language over the past few years, several industries need to make more of an active effort to combat gender-bias within their ads in order to subliminally encourage female talent.

“Unconscious bias may lead to accidental discrimination, but there is no excuse in 2019. It’s time for employers to go back to the drawing board and redesign their recruitment basics in order to keep up with the times. We’re already seeing movement being made towards gender equality when it comes to pay; why should attracting talent be any different?”