3 Ways Your Branding is Discouraging Gender Diversity

How to attract more gender diverse candidates

As the visual team behind ICTC’s report “Gender Equity in Canada’s Tech Ecosystem” (read it here) we learned a lot about the strategies employers can implement to attract, retain and support entry and mid-level talent. A standout for us marketing nerds were the aspects of messaging, language and employer branding that were holding organizations back from attracting more gender diverse candidates. Here we’ll outline their findings, and explore opportunities for getting more people of more genders interested in working with you.

Your website isn’t reflecting your stated values

Your website is the first place a candidate starts imagining their goodness of fit. If your job posting claimed to be a place that welcomes people of marginalized genders, applicants will be measuring this claim against what they see on your website.

What will they be looking for? 

  • Employees who look like them. Update your About pages to include employee profiles. Highlight diverse backgrounds not just in identity, but in education and career path to let candidates know that you understand that there is more than one way to learn and be successful. Maybe not if your company is brain surgeons, there’s probably only one way to get good at that. 
  • Beef up your content with posts that demonstrate you acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of women and gender non-conforming people in your field. Feature conversations about equity in your field to show you are putting resources into understanding and amplifying these concepts. 
  • Speak plainly and truthfully about your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy. At this stage in the recruitment funnel, employees of marginalized genders are looking to see how your stated values materialize into tangible action on the part of your organization, and meaningful experiences for women, non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming employees. 
  • This is more of a BOLD LIP take, but branding that isn’t cohesive and clearly hasn’t been updated in a decade may not convey a modern and approachable organization.

Your job posting is alienating gender diverse candidates. 

Job postings are the “cold open” your organization presents for many candidates. While they’re often treated as a copy/paste affair, they feature a lot of the organization’s cornerstone brand messaging and tone of voice in a compact space. These postings work hard to attract, or dissuade, the applications of gender diverse candidates. 

  • Analyze the tone of your posting. Language we consider neutral or “professional” may be coded masculine (is this because we consider masculine language default in a patriarchal society? That’s a blog for another time). Free online tools like Textio rate texts for “masculine tone” and outline which words may dissuade applicants of diverse genders and why. 
  • Beef up your Employee Equal Opportunity (EEO) statement. The presence of these statements has shown to increase applications from gender-diverse candidates. Even so, your organization can stand out by showing up in your EEO in a way that is intentional and unique to your organization, rather than a canned statement regurgitated from elsewhere. Beyond your intent to get more applicants in the door, what can you say about the opportunity for advancement of gender diverse candidates once they’re a part of the organization? What can they expect in terms of sensitivity and accommodation in the day-to-day? 
  • Lose the sprawling list of “nice-to-haves” on your posting. Women (data for other marginalized genders isn’t substantial) apply for 20% fewer jobs than men, and less likely to interpret the recruitment process as a negotiation where personality and work ethic can swap in for technical skills. Supporting your EEO, mention of your organization’s openness to alternative education and skill backgrounds here may increase the likelihood of hearing from gender-diverse applicants. Remember we’re talking about entry and mid-level positions, so it’s more likely there will be some skill or experience gaps in all genders.

Your networking events perpetuate homogeneity.       

If you’re not attracting the candidates you want, it may be time to reframe your networking event presence. If you’re passively showing up at these events without intention, why wouldn’t they yield the same types of applicants they always have or perpetuate implicit biases? If you consider these instead as an extension of your company’s experiential marketing strategy, what message are you delivering to your audience?

  • Update your collateral and swag to be more appealing to more genders. In the case of the tech ecosystem, ICTC speaks of producing messaging that relies heavily on masculine-coded references from films like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. 
  • Staff your booth with people who are good at speaking to your desired audience. This is again a BOLD LIP take, reflecting our observations of trade marketing from the cannabis industry. A personable, well-spoken and prepared representative makes all the difference. 
  • Re-examine the pool you’re selecting from. If you’re activating at a university that has a bias for churning out white, male graduates, guess what demographic of candidates that will yield?

Is your brand keeping up with your values?    

To be clear, we’re not suggesting that a brand solution will solve a culture problem. If your organization doesn’t work intentionally to make your workplace lucrative, supportive and safe for gender-diverse candidates, it is likely that the cultural norms and biases will win out. We’re not advocating for window dressing without substance. 

We are, however, suggesting that difficult and expensive DEIB efforts not go to waste. Candidates care about corporate values more than ever, especially marginalized groups making big career decisions. By making an effort to reflect your values on externally-facing touchpoints like job postings, websites and in-person recruitment activations, you are better positioned to walk your organization’s talk. We’d like to help! We’re a women-led creative team of branding experts! Give! Us! Your! Money!

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