New research has found that despite job vacancies being on the rise, women are being locked out of the labour market because of gendered job adverts.

The study from Applied, a hiring platform that debiases recruitment, has shown that women are being alienated by job descriptions that discourage them from applying, with masculine wording reducing the number of female applicants by as much as 10 per cent.

This comes as pressure from the pandemic has already seen women re-enter the workforce at less than half the rate of men, despite job vacancies topping one million as the economy recovers from COVID-19.

Many attribute this slow rate of re-entry to reasons such as school closures and home-schooling, as these factors disproportionately affect women.

In order to obtain this research, Applied analysed job adverts and ran each through a ‘gender score calculator’, and placed the language from the advert on a scale from ‘strongly feminine’ through to ‘strongly masculine.

In relation to job adverts that were categorised as ‘strongly masculine’, the number of female candidates applying to the role plummeted, dropping by up to 10 per cent.

In fact, only 44 per cent of applications for roles advertised as using ‘strongly masculine’ language came from female candidates.

The impact of feminine-coded language, such as ‘share’, ‘responsibility’, or ‘together’, was compared to the impact of masculine words, such as ‘challenging’, ‘driven’, and ‘individual’.

Shockingly, the study found that if an advert used feminine-coded or ‘neutral’ words, the proportion of female applicants had the potential to increase up to 54 per cent.

Furthermore, if a job advert used feminine or neutral language, a woman was more likely to not only apply, but was more likely to be offered the job.

Job adverts that featured masculine language were much more likely to have a man as the successful candidate.

Khyati Sundaram, CEO of Applied, commented:

Gendered language can be difficult to spot, as it’s so ingrained in the way we talk about certain employability characteristics, leadership skills and industries. But this research evidences the real-time impact gendered language is having on the workforce.

In order to level the playing fields and get applications from qualified women on the table, employers have a responsibility to neutralise the masculine language they’re using.

For employers, this new research provides a fresh incentive to assess job applications for gendered language in order to attract a diverse pool of applicants and support female talent.

*In order to obtain this reserch, Applied analysed a sample of 7563 closed or archived jobs to find out how many people from each gender category applied.





Megan McElroy is a second year English Literature student at the University of Warwick. As Editorial Intern for HRreview, her interests include employment law and public policy. In relation to her degree, her favourite areas of study include Small Press Publishing and political poetry.