Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for information only, and is not intended to restrict Review Officers or the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal in their determination of matters. Refer to the Pay Equity Act for exact interpretation.

Why is a gender-neutral
job ad important?

A gender-neutral job ad strengthens your talent pool with a wide variety of applicants.

There has been significant research around language that tends to be more subconsciously appealing to men versus women in job ads. For example, words such as “competitive”, “dominant” or “leader” are male-coded, while words such as “support”, “understand” and “interpersonal” are associated with work historically performed by women. Studies have also shown that potential job candidates do not realize the presence of gendered language, and they tend to attribute their disinterest in a job to personal lack of interest in the job or just general lack of appeal.

Having a more diverse workforce may lead to increased profits for your organization.

A strong business case can be made for gender diversity (as well as ethnic and cultural diversity) in organizations. 2019 research shows that gender-diverse companies are 25 percent more likely to outperform those that are not, and it also shows that this profitability is progressively increasing. A job ad is often a prospective candidate’s first impression of your company. It can show culture, values, and greatly impact who applies.

A job ad can help combat occupational segregation in the workplace.

Being thoughtful about the way a job is advertised is another way you can help combat occupational segregation in the labour market. If you are recruiting to fill roles that have been or still are stereotyped as “women’s work” or “men’s work”, try new ways to write the ad so that it will appeal to the person who has the qualities you’re looking for. Think creatively about the places where the best person might see your ad and advertise there, even if you’ve never posted there before – because you aren’t looking for a man or a woman, you are looking for the best person.

Best practices for writing a gender neutral job ad.

Use specific, gender-neutral titles
  • Words like “rockstar,” “superhero,” and “ninja,” can all carry unconscious bias. Instead, replace descriptors with the exact job title. For example, neutral, descriptive titles could be “engineer,” “project manager,” or “developer”.
Double and triple check pronouns
  • Use “you” when describing job tasks – it takes gender out of the equation.
Carefully consider your ‘must haves’ (requirements) vs. the ‘nice to haves’ (preferences).
  • Eliminate or clearly distinguish “nice-to-haves” and focus solely on requirements to expand your pool of applicants. Research has found that:
    • Women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100 percent of the requirements, while men will apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements.
    • The choice of university degree can vary by gender, so you may be limiting your candidate pool by unnecessarily requiring completion of a specific degree.
    • Distinguishing between essential and non-essential qualifications in a job ad will also make your hiring process more AODA compliant and accessible, and will bring in a larger and more diverse hiring pool.
Express your commitment to equality and diversity
  • Include information on your company values and the ways you promote diversity to appeal to a wider pool of candidates.
State your family-friendly benefits
  • Make the position attractive by giving a fuller view of compensation and include how your employees and their families benefit from parental leave, flextime, and pension plans.
Ask for an extra set of eyes
  • People with different backgrounds and experiences may help uncover different unconscious biases in a job ad. Sometimes, a committee approach can be helpful.
Check adjectives and verbs
  • Research indicates that certain adjectives are associated with men and others with women. For example, “competitive,” “outspoken” and “competent” are associated with men. Words like “sensitive,” “collaborative” and “compassionate” are typically used to refer to women.
Leverage technology to identify potential issues with word choices.
  • Some analysis shows that the gender language bias in your job posting may predict the gender of the person you’re going to hire. Using an online tool can help to identify problem spots in your word choices and catch anything you may have missed – pronouns, adjectives, verbs etc.

Sample Job Ads

Below are two examples of job ads.

  • Can you spot any gender-coded words or phrases (hint: one of them has at least four)?
  • Is there anything the writer may want to consider adding (hint: one of them could stand to add at least two more statements)? Subtracting?
  • What kinds of applicants do you think are likely to apply to each just based on the job titles alone?
Below is an example of a job ad for work that is often stereotyped as male but is written in a gender-neutral way: