Employers must eliminate unconscious gender bias from job ads to secure the best talent: SEEK

Employers risk missing out on the best person available for an advertised role when they fail to actively address unconscious gender bias in their job ads, warns Kathleen McCudden, Group HR Director at SEEK.

McMudden pointed to a new survey of 4800 people undertaken on SEEK’s behalf by independent consultant Perspicacious. Noting that the sample was “representative of the Australian working population”, she told Dynamic Business that the findings prove a gender imbalance in leadership roles still exists, with 60% of those in leadership roles being male.

“This is not reflective of the desire to take on leadership roles which is similar across genders, with 50% of men and 48% of women wanting to pursue leadership in the future,” she said. “Looking to specific levels of leadership the percentage of women holding leadership roles declines on average as the roles become more senior.”

A factor contributing to this gender imbalance, McCudden explained, is that many businesses fail to comprehend that women and men have “very different drivers and motivators when it comes to making career decisions”. Relevantly, the study found that women seeking out leadership roles are more likely than men to be motivated by opportunities to mentor staff (43%), be respected for their knowledge and experience (38%) and expand their professional experience. Conversely, men were found to place a greater emphasis on securing a higher salary and other financial benefits (36%), feeling accomplished in their career (42%) and being responsible for achieving positive results (36%).

“Understanding the differences between men and women will enable organisations to take an essential first step towards bridging the gender leadership gap and, in this way, creating a dynamic, more innovative workforce,” McCudden said. “On top of that, organisations that commit to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects the needs and aspirations of everyone in a team, are better able to represent the communities we operate in.”

McMudden said that when organisations are advertising and recruiting for roles, they need to be aware of how they position their employee value propositions. The reason, she explained, is that unconscious bias, both in terms of how jobs are marketed and how internal promotions are organised, can limit an employer’s ability to find the best person available.

“Due to a number of biases employers might not even be aware of, job ads can be written in a way that doesn’t take into account that men and women interpret certain words differently,” she said. “The key, as I mentioned, is for employers to firstly recognise the differences between what motivates men and women. Secondly, this understanding needs to be reflected in the way role characteristics are communicated to candidates. This will ensure employers are appealing to the whole market.”