Is there bias in job descriptions? Google believes there is!

By May 13, 2019 No Comments

The words we use matter. They can either attract or detract women to a job. Thinknum Media recently activated a “gender decoder” using it to analyze a whole host of Google’s various companies’ job descriptions. They wanted to know if the job descriptions were attracting female candidates. They found that some of the companies were doing a good job, while others not so much. Thinknum Media based their gender decoder on a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology* by a group of social scientists, which demonstrated that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and can sustain gender inequality, potentially even shaping the gender balance of who applies to a given job. In that study, job ads written with more masculine language were, simply put, less appealing to women compared to when the identical job was described using less male leaning language.

This is a major step forward for women when companies like Google recognize that more needs to be done to solve for gender bias, beginning with job descriptions. There are a few providers of this type of technology, including TalVista, who with their Recruiting Suite help companies make conscious inclusion decisions based on scientific research. TalVista based its initial technology over three years ago on Dr. Kay’s paper. TalVista’s own social scientists have continued on with research to broaden the scope of diversity beyond just that of gender.

“My colleagues and I set out to test whether gender bias exists in job advertisements, and if does, could it be a contributor to gender inequality.” said Aaron C. Kay, PhD. “Our research is foundational to the work that Google and other technology providers like TalVista have done to help companies equalize the language used in job adverts.” Dr. Kay went on to say, “it is thrilling to see a company like TalVista attempt to apply and expand this research with cutting-edge technology.” Based in scientific research, TalVista is one of the only offerings to help companies enlarge the diversity talent pool to include not only for gender but also for race, ethnicity, and ability.

TalVista’s Job Description optimizer is only one of the tools in its Recruiting Suite. Equalizing language is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in improving diversity among candidates to enter and flow through the recruiting process. Words, names, schools can all impact how we perceive a job or even a candidate. Attracting a more diverse pool of candidates is a great first step. The next step, resume screening, is a step fraught with peril and it’s a major diversity failure point. Recruiters and Hiring Managers see candidate names and with a high percentage of success can quickly determine a candidate’s gender and even race or ethnicity. TalVista’s Recruiting Suite includes resume redaction to assist hiring managers in making more consciously inclusive decisions by redacting personal information from the candidate’s resume. This opens the door to stay focused on candidate KSAs rather than reading the candidate’s name or seeing the school they attended and assuming a gender, race or ethnicity and reverting to an unconscious bias decision.

To learn more about how TalVista can equalize the language in your job descriptions and level the field for diverse candidates during the resume screen process contact us at We’re here to support your organization with conscious inclusion decision making.

*Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2011, Vol 101(1), p109-28) by Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay

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