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Why some job adverts put women off applying (bbc.co.uk)
20 points by blowski 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

She says Textio taught her company to avoid terms such as "coding ninja" - a common phrase in Silicon Valley job ads.

This would also put me off applying for the role. It makes the company sound immature and anyone who calls themselves a coding ninja may not have great self assesment skills.

Indeed. I haven’t actually seen very many ninja or rockstar type titles in the last few years so hopefully that particular fad has died off already. And I don’t know anyone, male or female, who doesn’t cringe at those kinds of titles either. Then again I am not in the webdev/fullstack market so maybe it does still happen.

Saying it was "common" is simply a lie. I would love to see her stats because I've been working in tech for a while now and I've never seen the term "coding ninja" in a job ad.

I've seen ludicrous demands like more experience in a tech than the tech has been out.

Like "must haves : " - 5 years experience in visual studio 2017 and sql server 2017. Non negotiable.

I don't think it's a lie, I think it's just an old example. Just as the media loves using "epic fail" in a "How do you do, fellow kids?" kind of way, it's easy to assume something is still happening because it was big the last time you checked.

I would like to see the scientific evidence of this unconscious bias they are referring to. Im also skeptical of the claims that gender diversity alone will boost revenue 41%. That is a extremely bold claim.

I keep reading that tech is not very female-inclusive, and I keep wondering where these people are looking. Maybe San Francisco is different than any of the places I've worked in the past 25 years? I've been all over: deep south, midwest, north texas - I don't know if the gender ratio was 50/50 since I never did a headcount, but I sure remember an awful lot of women in technical roles everywhere I've ever worked. Maybe they're not counting Indian women?

Technical roles yes. How many are developers? I’m not dismissing QA, but QA I’ve found is so much more female than male that in a group of developers, the female will be asked are they QA.

> I would like to see the scientific evidence of this unconscious bias they are referring to.

Here's a study, for example [1]. There's enough out there that you'd probably want to qualify that request a bit. There's even a study on the association between gender and evaluation of gender bias studies (men are more skeptical/critical of studies showing gender bias) [2].

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/111/12/4403.full

[2] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/43/13201

That particular sentence in the article sounds very odd, as it suggests the baseline was a set of single-sex workplaces. I'm not sure where they found those. Perhaps the Catholic church?

I'm pretty sure that the Catholic church employs many fathers and sisters.

I'm no expert on the Catholic Church, but what I've seen on TV (e.g. Father Ted) suggests that men work from certain locations, and women work from others. So each of the workplaces is single-sex, even if the overall organisation is not.

> Father Ted Also, priests tend to have pet bricks and drink motor oil.

As a UK license payer and general supporter of the BBC, these thinly-veiled advertising pieces (in this case for "Textio") always leave a bad taste in my mouth. Latching on to a worthy cause like feminism just makes it worse.

Replacing uncounscious bias, with conscious bias based on words that take into account both the employer and the canditate prejudices towards some words is a crazy tricky line of thought. To me it seems there's a problem, let's add an aditional layer of complexity to make it more intentional and less visible. The end result is that adverts get even more filled with prejudice.

Yeah, that's what always makes me uncomfortable about diversity efforts. Diversity? Sure, that sounds good. How you propose to get there? Ummm... not so sure about that. If you go back to the origin of the term "white privilege" as coined by Peggy McIntosh (in 1989, mind you, not 1972), you'll find that she defends to concept with such dubious claims as "being able to find music that represents your group" is a concrete example of "white privilege". Almost all of her examples are essentially unverifiable - yet, the solution (to white or male privilege) is always to replace intangible, nebulous advantages with very specific, concrete disadvantages.

You start working at diversity by recruiting from places like historically black colleges for minorities and women only colleges for women(?).

actually if they look closely enough they'll find out companies really want to hire clever workaholics who have modest salary requirements, never ask for raise or promotion and are easily taken advantage of. That's the perfect employee.

The only way around this is to create more demand for labour. Make employers compete more, break down monopolies, remove protections, moats, tax entrenched rent seeking.

A job description that uses the phrase "We're looking for someone to manage a team" may seem innocuous enough.

But research has shown that the word "manage" encourages more men than women to apply for the role.

Changing the word to "develop" would make it more female-friendly, says Kieran Snyder

So all you have to do to attract more women to a job is to lie about what the job entails? Maybe jobs for managers put off women because they don't want to be managers.

It's somehow funny to me that they refer to Textio's CEO as "Mr Snyder", when she at least according to the company's Team page[1] seems to self-identify as female. Amazing what a one-letter typo can do.

[1]: https://textio.com/team/

"ads with lengthy bullet points detailing the role's responsibilities will face a drop-off in women applying for the job"

Maybe women just don't like too much responsibility or hard work? Maybe for that matter, no one does? Have they even checked what effect their proposed changes have on male applicants? For example "coding ninja" would surely also be off putting to many men.

Wasn't there a study concluding that women tend to under-estimate their skills and men the opposite? If we assume that to be true, a long list of responsibilities is more likely to put off women because they don't think they can cover everything (or enough of it).

There are all sorts of feminist studies. I bet most of them will be found to be flawed and unsubstantiated - like many of sociology studies have been found in recent times.

In any case, I don't think there is a law of nature or a biological force that makes women underestimate their skills. Plenty of women don't underestimate their skills.

Nobody suggested there’s a force of nature or biology behind women underestimating their skills, only you - have you considered that many women may be socialised to do so?

It’s not like the job application/interview/etc dance is perfectly neutral towards every characteristic and background a person might have all the time as it is - words used, interview styles, and so on and so forth are never neutral.

"Being socialized" would be a force of nature. Anyway, they are not - who would do that, and why? The mostly female teachers? And somehow girls would still do better than boys in school, despite constantly being told they are bad? Actually the opposite is the case - studies have shown that boys tend to get worse grades than girls for the same level of performance. So wouldn't that be socialization of underestimating their skills for boys? (Of course those studies might also be flawed, like the feminist ones).

Being socialised is not a force of nature, because that implies that it’s non-changeable. It’s a societal choice to prioritise certain things and deprioritise others, to raise our kids to believe certain things, to allow the use of marketing in ways that reinforce existing beliefs, and so on and so forth. I find it weird that you consider “women” to be a homogenous group who all want the same thing and agree on exactly the method of achieving it, btw, as implied by your suggestion that a female teacher would never do anything that might hurt a girl’s sense of self worth.

I don’t know why studies suggest that boys are often better at correctly estimating (or maybe overestimating?) their skill level, but there’s lots of potential reasons aside from “biology” and “bad study”. Perhaps boys are just told “fake it til you make it” more often, and do so. Perhaps girls focus more on grades than boys in school for whatever reason, and the grading system is just set up to demoralise people in general. There’s a hundred thousand possible explanations - but they’re irrelevant to the point being made that if this is happening, then in order to encourage people who already believe these things about themselves to apply for a job, thinking about how to change your job posting to fit people with those beliefs is a good idea.

Um, it is you who refers to women as a homogeneous group that underestimates their skills.

It is fine to try to attract more people to your job, if that is what you want. However, if the problem is "women underestimate their skills", perhaps it would be better to work on women having higher estimates of their skills, than on downscaling the demands of jobs.

Women are free to go to career counseling and learn to correctly estimate their skills. Like everybody else. Bookshops are full of books with career counseling, too. I bet you can even get free advice on the internet. If you want to, you can learn to succeed, even as a woman.

The whole discussion is moot. You are free to believe that women tend to underestimate their skills, and men tend to overestimate. It just happens to neatly align with feminist theory that men are worthless windbags, but if that is your world view, ok.

If you are looking for papers, you can find plenty that contradict your theory. For example today I saw another big study showing "Stereotype Threat" has no effect on girl's performance on Maths. So even if girls are told they are bad in Maths (which I doubt is happening on significant scale, but whatever), at the very least it doesn't affect their performance.

Ofcom (i.e., UK government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom) mandates that for the BBC: 50% of leadership roles to be held by women by 2020.


With an infinite supply of talent and availability this will work. But the world isn't quite like that. Lots of women don't aspire to work 80 hours a week at full capacity over and above other life choices. Moreover, will gender trump merit on occasion? Who can doubt it?

your implicit assumption is that many men do "aspire to work 80 hours a week at full capacity over and above other life choices". I think that's a big assumption.

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