How to Increase the Number of Women in Your Applicant Pool

3 min read · By Academic Positions · Published 3 weeks ago

Many universities are taking a critical look at the ethnic and gender makeup of their faculties and staff. Women, in particular, are often underrepresented in scientific research groups and as tenured faculty. As a result, many institutions are rethinking their staffing and hiring processes in order to increase the number of women in their applicant pool.

According to recent data from the American Association of University Professors, “even though women now account for 47 percent of full-time faculty members, they are overrepresented in non-tenure-track positions.” They also found that the representation of women decreased as academic rank increased with only 32.5% of full professors being women. 

This data was collected in 2018 though, before Covid transformed our daily lives. The pandemic revealed real and significant inequities between male and female responsibilities as caregivers and academics, with women juggling far more than men. A March 2021 article from executive search firm Perrett Laver notes that, “27% of male scholars said [Covid] lockdown was providing them with more time to research and write. That number is around a third lower for women.” 

As the world starts to recover from the global pandemic and academic hiring picks up, universities are eager to attract more female candidates to their applicant pools. Here are a few ways to get started. 

Keep your job description gender neutral 

It may seem obvious but if you’re looking to attract more female candidates, use gender neutral language in your job advert. 

Steering clear of gender pronouns is a good place to start but don’t forget to take a closer look at the number and kinds of adjectives you use. Words like competitive and dominant are more masculine while words like collaborative and supportive are more feminine. These words often create unconscious bias and ultimately impact which candidates apply. Although it would be great to eliminate bias from these adjectives, it’s easier to simply eliminate them from your job advert. Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School writes, “it’s easier to de-bias organizations’ practices and procedures than to de-bias mindsets.”

To reduce gendered language keep your job advert dry, factual, and to the point. List titles and responsibilities of the job without qualifying adjectives. The Harvard Business Review also found the longer the list of required skills, the less likely you are to attract female job seekers. Women are more likely to believe these skills are in fact required and not merely desirable. 

Include information on family-friendly policies at your university 

As women often still have more caregiving responsibilities at home, including your university’s family friendly policies will not only show a commitment to gender equality, it will provide applicants tangible solutions to their potential concerns about balancing family and work. For example, noting that you have day care facilities, parental leave, or flexible hours will help assure female applicants (and other parents or caregivers) they are welcomed and desired in your community.

Promote your vacancies on social media 

Social media is increasingly popular as a tool to find jobs and network professionally. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are increasingly popular among academics and can be used to reach both active and passive job seekers. With 4.48 billion people actively using social media, posting your job vacancies on these popular sites is critical. Social media is a great way to cast a wider net and reach more applicants–especially women. 

Additionally, an active personal or lab social media presence is a great way to showcase your commitment to improving diversity in academia. You can post pictures of female researchers in labs, profiles of parents sharing how they create a work/life balance, and post news and updates about the work your female colleagues or students are doing. In this way, you can help position yourself as an attractive potential employer to female job seekers.   

Create a long term strategy featuring recruitment marketing

The most effective way to consistently increase the amount of female applicants is to develop a long term strategy to attract female talent. This ongoing approach should incorporate employer branding and content marketing into your recruitment marketing. 

Your employer brand is partly determined by university employees, students, and potential candidates and includes how people discuss your organization across their networks. Content marketing is a powerful tool for communicating your employer brand since it allows you to show, rather than tell, how you support gender diversity. Through targeted content marketing in the form of blogs, articles, or social media posts, you can explain why diversity and inclusion are important for your department and university.

With a thoughtful approach to recruitment marketing, you can ensure your talent pool will grow wider and more diverse.

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