Tech companies have begun to solve one of their biggest problems — and it starts with the words they use in job postings
- Tech companies have made a concerted effort to become more equal among men and women in recent years.
- New data suggests job postings may be a useful tool to accomplish that goal.
Over the past few years, employment rates between men and women at America's largest tech companies have grown more equal. New data suggest subtle language changes in job postings could be a reason why.
Tech companies are notoriously male-dominant, across the board. Non-technical roles, technical roles, and executive roles are all majority-occupied by men.
Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies:
As more female employees and news outlets have begun sharing stories of discriminatory practices, many of these companies have taken steps to close the gaps.
On Wednesday, the text-analysis startup Textio published the results of its analysis of 25,000 job postings made by companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, and more.
Among the key findings: Companies vary wildly in the language they use in job ads, oftentimes attracting more men or women based solely on their diction.
Amazon, for example, was prone to using words and phrases like "wickedly," "fast-paced environment," and "maniacal." In its report on the findings, Textio coded these terms in blue, signifying they attracted significantly more male applicants.
At Facebook, standout terms included "our family," "ruthlessly," and "storytelling." Only "ruthlessly" was in blue; the other two were in purple, which meant they attracted more female applicants.
Taking care to attract different kinds of people by using more precise language may be part of their overall strategy.
Going by the labor force data, Textio's results seem to correlate well with companies becoming more gender-equal among tech workers.
In 2014, Apple's tech workers were 80% male and 20% female. By 2016, that rate had shifted to 77% and 23%. At Google, the rates went from 83% and 17% to 81% and 19%. And at Facebook, it went from 85% and 15% to 83% and 17%.
The rates start skewing the opposite direction for non-tech workers and executive roles, perhaps indicating that the companies have directed their equality efforts in one direction in particular, at the expense of other positions.
But there was a slight overlap in the companies Textio identified as using language appealing to women and tech companies becoming more equal.
Facebook's postings commonly use the female-gendered phrases "our family" and "storytelling," and it's one of the only big tech companies to make a big jump in executive diversity. In 2014, the ratio was 77% male to 23% female; in 2016, it was 73% and 27%.
"Changing the words you use won't change your culture overnight," Textio CEO Kieran Snyder wrote. "But getting consistent and intentional about language does create accountability for teams to aim for the environment that you're all aspiring to — and that's the first step to getting there."
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