Woman boardroom
Why 'Male Stereotype' Job Ad Wording Deters Women Applicants Reuters

The fight for more women in the boardroom and senior level positions has taken an intriguing turn as scientists have found that they are less likely to apply for jobs through adverts that contain words linked to male stereotypes.

According to a report by Technische Universität München (TUM), women are less inclined to respond to ads containing frequently used words like 'determined' and 'assertive,' and therefore can skew the gender demographic of applicants.

"A carefully-formulated job posting is essential to get the best choice of personnel," said Professor Claudia Peus from the Chair of Research and Science Management, who headed the study.

"In most cases, it doesn't make sense to simply leave out all of the male-sounding phrases. But without a profile featuring at least balanced wording, organisations are robbing themselves of the chance of attracting good female applicants. And that's because the stereotypes endure almost unchanged in spite of all of the societal transformation we have experienced."

Scientists say that the report gleaned some important knowledge about the role of emotions in senior positions and that this debunks the cliché that leaders are more successful if they regularly show anger toward their team.

"A tough tone of voice equals authority – that's just not true," said one of the other heads of the study, Professor Isabell M. Welpe from the Chair of Strategy and Organisation.

"The position of power held by leaders who take their anger out on their staff may indeed be acknowledged. But it doesn't earn them lasting loyalty – on the contrary, they risk being betrayed at the next opportunity."

The AuBeFühr Project

In the three-year project entitled Selection and Assessment of Leaders in Business and Academia - also known by its German acronym AuBeFühr- the Chairs of Strategy and Organisation and of Research and Science Management worked together to come up with academically-sound recommendations that could be shared with participants in training sessions.

The project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the European Social Fund of the European Union.

The TUM calculated the results by showing 260 test subjects fictional employment ads which ranged from a place in a training programme to potential management positions.

The scientists said that if the advertisement described a large number of traits associated with men, the women found it less appealing and were less inclined to apply.

These words included 'assertive', 'independent', 'aggressive' and 'analytical'.

The study showed that women were more likely to apply for jobs from ads that included the words 'dedicated', 'responsible', 'conscientious' and 'sociable'.

For male test subjects, on the other hand, the wording of the job advertisement made no difference.