The water services firm was struggling to attract female applicants to its frontline roles. Last year, only 8% of applicants for sewage works technicians came from women. After investigating why interest was so low, Thames Water used an online tool to uncover ‘masculine-coded’ phrases in their job ads.
The water services firm discovered that words such as ‘competitive’, ‘confident’ and ‘champion’ were associated with masculine traits – this unconscious bias can drive down interest from female candidates.
In response to removing these words, the number of female applicants rose to 46%.
Lucian Farrance, who led the project, said “There is a huge pool of untapped female talent out there and it is great to see some of that showing through in the recruits coming into the frontline teams at Thames Water. Gender should never be a barrier.”
This case study highlights that language matters when it comes to attracting talent. Job adverts are often the first experience a potential candidate has of an employer – and they only get one chance to make a first impression.
In a recent survey of engineering, manufacturing, transport and logistics professionals, a staggering 72.2% of female respondents said they had withdrawn from a job application because of gender bias. After ‘hiring manager made gender-biased comments’, the top reason for withdrawing was ‘gender-biased language in the job description.
This has a real impact on the makeup of the workforce. Women remain as scarce as ever across engineering and infrastructure roles. By the latest estimates, women make up only 13% and 9% of the US engineering and advanced manufacturing workforce respectively. These statistics reveal the state of stagnation over the last few decades. The numbers haven’t changed since 2001, for fact advanced manufacturing, the current estimate represents a decline of one per cent.
Engineering and infrastructure firms, including water services firms, miss out on a number of benefits from a lack of diversity; including improved productivity, innovation, and financial performance.
Tackling bias at the beginning of the recruitment pipeline can help.
Dan Brook, a director at recruitment agency LVI Associates, suggests engineering and infrastructure firms identify, test and audit the kinds of candidates who apply to job adverts.
Using an augmented writing platform like Textio can help predict the outcome of your job description. To date, Textio has helped companies increase female job applicants by 23% compared to previous hiring rounds and an overall 25% increase of candidates who are qualified to make it to the interview round.
“If you are struggling to achieve change, get in touch with an engineering recruitment specialist like LVI Associates,” suggests Dan Brook. “We know how to write inclusive job adverts to draw in applications from a diverse and qualified pool of candidates.”
Looking for a trusted recruitment partner? LVI Associates can help you create a diverse talent acquisition strategy to attract, retain and motivate engineering and infrastructure talent. Submit a vacancy or send a general enquiry today.