TIME Working Women

Study: Women Do Not Apply To ‘Male-Sounding’ Jobs

Job postings seeking “assertive,” “independent,” “aggressive” candidates don't attract women, according to a new study. Instead, female candidates are drawn to ads looking for "dedicated" or "conscientious" people

Women are less likely to apply for a job that “sounds” like it’s meant for a man, according to a new study.

For example, if a job posting uses words like “determined” and “assertive,” women are less likely to apply since the descriptors are associated with male stereotypes.

Researchers from the Technische Universität München (TUM) showed 260 participants employment ads for management positions. If the ads used words commonly associated with men, like “assertive”, “independent”, “aggressive” and “analytical,” the women said they didn’t find the job appealing, and were less likely to apply. Conversely, if the job used words like “dedicated”, “responsible”, “conscientious” and “sociable” they were much more likely to think the job was a good fit.

Wording on the advertisements made no difference to men.

The researchers say that it may be true that companies with few women in management roles suffer from a lack of applicants, as many claim. But language used in job advertisements may be turning women off, even if they are qualified. “In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to simply leave out all of the male-sounding phrases,” study author Claudia Peus said in a statement. “But without a profile featuring at least balanced wording, organizations are robbing themselves of the chance of attracting good female applicants. And that’s because the stereotypes endure almost unchanged in spite of all of the societal transformation we have experienced.”

Ideally, wording shouldn’t impact whether a woman applies for a job, but the researchers showed that stereotypes persist, and play out in the application process. The researchers surveyed about 600 male and female Americans, and found that the majority considered men and women to be equally competent. But, men were rated higher for leadership skills–and even more disturbing–women rated themselves and other women lower overall in leadership abilities.

The research, which was funded by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research and by the European Social Fund of the European Union, is currently being presented in Munich.

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