Apprenticeship quango trials ‘gender neutral’ adverts

Apprenticeship quango trials ‘gender neutral’ adverts

May 10, 2019

Apprenticeship quango dumps ‘masculine’ words including ‘ambition’, ‘leader’ and ‘challenge’ to try to appeal to women

  • The Institute for Apprenticeships is set to launch the new pilot scheme
  • It comes as research showed masculine words put females off applying 
  • Application form using the structure saw 40 per cent more female applicants

The Institute for Apprenticeships is set to trial ‘gender neutral’ language in order to up the amount of female STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) applicants.

It comes as research revealed that masculine words in job adverts such as ‘ambition’, ‘leader’ and ‘challenging’ deter females from applying to certain roles.

The under representation of women taking on roles in the STEM subjects is something that both employers and the government alike have struggled to tackle and the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater, had previously said it was ‘working hard’ to increase the female proportion.

At the moment, this figure sits at 9 per cent, and campaigns have been launched, such as the ‘Fire It Up’ apprentice drive in order to help hammer home the message.

The new pilot scheme is set to up the number of female applicants in fields such as science

According to FE Week, The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) has decided to trial using ‘gender-neutral language’ in apprenticeship standards.

Deputy director for apprentice approvals at the IfA, Ana Osbourne said research has shown that the language used in job adverts can make the job more or less appealing to one gender and therefore discourage women from applying for certain jobs.

She added: ‘We are looking at how this applies to the wording in apprenticeships – including for STEM apprenticeships, where the number of women is lower.’

The pilot scheme will involve the application of gender-neutral language to the 12 standards in scope of the group’s digital review.

It’s been influenced by Jo Morfee who leads ‘InnovateHer’, a group that helps young women prepare to enter a career in the tech industry.

Speaking to FE Week she said: ‘Through working closely with our corporate partners we’ve discovered that the use of gender-neutral language has the potential to have a huge impact on the outcome.’

List of masculine words the scheme will avoid 

  • Decisive
  • Leader 
  • Active
  • Ambition
  • Challenge
  • Objective
  • Competitiveness
  • Independence
  • Opinion
  • Confidential 

She claimed the organisations partners had seen a 40 per cent increase in female application for senior data analyst roles as a result of changing the language they used.

‘I’ve advocated for this approach and learning to be applied to how we design apprenticeship content and I’m very pleased that the institute is taking this on board.

‘I believe it will make a big difference to the levels of gender diversity we see in the digital pathways’, she added.

The advert to have increased applications by 40 per cent listed a number of ‘feminine and neutral’ words which they believe should be used in job applications such as support, kind and honest.

It also listed ‘masculine’ words that they highlighted should be avoided such as; competitiveness, opinion and confident.

Chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust, Carole Easton , said gender stereotypes, reinforced by the language used in job adverts have the power to ‘shut women out of apprenticeships’ in the STEM sector.

She said the new trial was a ‘welcome move’ but that more still needed to be done.

Feminine words to be included 

  • Understand
  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Co-operative
  • Support 

‘Much more is needed to open these sectors up to women, including targeting job adverts at women, providing women-only taster days and raising the minimum wage for apprentices.

This is while, director of STEM Women Stephen Rooney said men are more likely to apply for a job if they meet ‘most of’ the desired skills.

‘In order to attract more female applicants, companies should ensure that the list of required skills is as small as possible, with only essential requirements appearing on the job specification.

‘Companies should also be aware that female job hunters are more likely to apply for a position if the wording focuses on team and communication skills, whereas job adverts focussing on targets and individual awards attract a greater proportion of male applicants.’

‘I believe that the institute will receive a greater proportion of female applicants if it uses gender-neutral language or female-focused job advert wording, and it makes sense to trial a variety of advert styles.’


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