Job titles may be causing gender hiring bias

by Human Capital28 Jun 2012

Job titles may be causing gender hiring biasA new report has identified how certain job titles perpetuate unbalanced hiring practices, and favour a preconceived gender for the role.

The peak standard-setting body, Standards Australia,has published a new set of Australian guidelines on gender inclusive job evaluation and grading. The not-for-profit body conducted an empirical study of job titles and role descriptions, and found that not only are some job titles gender-exclusive, but some pre-establish remuneration and act to perpetuate the wage-gap. “Although job evaluation does not directly determine the rates of pay, it has a significant role in establishing job and career structures and in remuneration-setting,” Colin Blair from Standards Australia said.

Helen Conway from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) added that gender bias may occur at any stage of a job evaluation or grading project. “Gender bias in job evaluation and remuneration is a significant contributor to the ongoing pay gap between men and women,” Conway said.

In some cases the way job guidelines are worded implies gender assumptions or characteristics. Obvious examples include ‘fireman’ or ‘secretary’, and many more make assumptions about gender and the nature of work.

According to the guidelines, employers should ensure that the sex of potential employees’ should not be identified in job descriptions. It highlighted the importance of avoiding personal pronouns such as his/her or he/she. Caution should be taken to ensure aspects of jobs stereotypically done by women were not omitted or under-described, and features typically characterising men’s jobs were not over-emphasised. To mitigate gender bias risks, the report recommended employers become aware of the risks and formulate ways to manage them. “[A] systematic and structured gender-inclusive job evaluation and grading process will ensure that gender does not affect grades, job opportunities, or rewards,” Blair said.

The guidelines published by Standards Australia were devised in consultation with job evaluation providers and practitioners, equity advisors, HR professionals, employer groups, and unions from the public and private sectors.


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  • by Sarah Nally 10/07/2012 4:25:23 PM

    I hadn't actually thought about this, however more and more I am conscious of the language we use in job adverts, role titles, even briefing packs that may have a gender bias. Interesting food for thought!

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