Iterating for better: ‘We need to raise awareness of unconscious bias’ when recruiting

As far back as 2011, research by US academics Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen and Aaron C. Kay revealed that the types of words used in job advertisements have a direct effect on the recruitment process. The name of the research paper says it as it is – Evidence That Gendered Wording In Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality – and it will come as no surprise that words such as ‘assert’, ‘lead’, ‘dominant’ and ‘confident’ are termed as male-coded.

Sadly, eight years on, it would appear that things have changed very little, with new data suggesting that 60 per cent of UK industries show male-bias within their job ads and overall job ads contain 17 per cent more male-coded wording than female-biased text.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that women don’t identify as assertive, confident or as leaders. It’s about how they respond to job ads on an unconscious level – they will be put off applying for a position if the ad or job description uses a disproportionate level of male-biased words.

So, what are the words that women – subconsciously – identify with? That’s anything from ‘collaborate’ to ‘committed’, ‘interpersonal’ to ‘loyal’, ‘supportive’ to ‘trust’.

If you want to encourage diversity, the advice is not to avoid masculine words, but to ensure that plenty of feminine-coded words are used too.

Recruitment specialists tell us more.

Tamsin O’Luinaigh

CoSec and talent director, nDreams

The language and tone of a job advert is incredibly important. It is a window into the culture of the studio and the attitudes of the hiring manager. There is certainly scope to communicate a role in a way that is not accessible, or less appealing, to everyone. A simple example is that women can be put off when an advert is full of words typically associated with dominant or assertive language. Focusing on wording that evokes collaboration can potentially be much more accessible. At nDreams, we are fortunate to have a management team committed to wanting to increase the gender diversity within our studio. We have worked with the team to help them understand how language in job adverts can unconsciously impact applications so that they consider it when writing adverts.

Meg Daintith

Recruitment manager, Codemasters

I am particularly aware of this at Codemasters, because, as racing specialists, so much of the motorsport vernacular can be male-oriented as well as the games job itself – it’s a double-whammy! We need lots of talent to make our games and we certainly can’t afford to put off half the population. As a woman I have a natural learning toward a female tone, but I still use tools such as the Totaljobs gender decoder to do regular checks.

To a degree, adverts will inevitably reflect the current status within the industry. It’s key to remember it is unintentional however – the blame-game isn’t helpful or necessary. It’s important that proactive industry reach-out work continues so we can rise above video games being seen as a boys club. Visiting schools and careers events is particularly valuable to raise awareness that with the right passion and talent, a career in games is open to everybody.

Claudia Cooney

Lead director, RightTrack Learning

Until we raise awareness of unconscious bias and teach people strategies to mitigate their effects, we will continue to see an impact. If, for example, we unconsciously associate admin roles with female candidates we may, without necessarily realising it, write the job advert with female-biased words. The opposite might be the case for sales roles or senior positions. We need to raise awareness of unconscious bias and the importance of being vigilant, in order to create a double-check situation that ensures a fast ‘gut-feeling’ is followed by slow analytical thinking. There is merit in using an online tools to scan the job advertisement for male or female biased language in order to flag, identify and edit the copy if necessary.

Putting The G Into Gaming is a pro bono initiative founded by and in association with recruitment specialist Amiqus. To find out more email or contact

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