Yahoo, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn have all recently published diversity reports that reveal workforces that are overwhelmingly male, white and Asian.

Changing this status quo is something we’ve always cared about, though it’s not always been an issue that’s been at the front of our minds. However, this isn’t just a personal issue, but a business one. It’s been proved over and over that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key to business success, especially in the field of innovation.

Currently Made by Many’s gender split for fee-earning staff is 33% female and 67% male (good, but could be better), however, at the beginning of the year I wondered whether our job adverts were doing all we could to help us create as inclusive a workforce as possible.

In a recent search for senior designers, 85% of the applicants were male. A deeper investigation into our candidate’s CVs showed that whilst we got a good range of people from different countries and backgrounds, it wasn't a very diverse list when it came to gender.

We wondered whether the language of our job adverts were putting some people off. Research from McKinsey has shown that if job adverts focused on enthusiasm and innovation, instead of aggressiveness and competitiveness, the number of applications from women rose by 40%*.

Here’s the start of our original job advert:

We’re looking for an unreasonably talented, and driven, senior designer. Someone who passionately believes user experience is integral to how people feel about a product. Who knows (and probably tells other people all the time) that design is integral to the success of all products and services.

Your role will be to fearlessly champion design throughout the lifetime of a project from initial conception to final release, from collaborating with clients, users and developers to prototyping and production design.

Fearless, champion and unreasonable. Whilst language is a deeply subjective area, it does feel that these are all words that are associated with a male-orientated world.

In April we changed our advert to start with:

We’re looking for a senior interaction designer who is deeply excited by the opportunity of creating thoughtful digital products that have lasting impact. Someone who passionately believes user experience is integral to how people feel about a product - whether it’s on the web, mobile or a connected device

Your role will be to ensure our design vision excels throughout the lifetime of a project, from initial conception to final release, from collaborating with clients, users and developers to prototyping and production design.

We immediately saw a rise in the number of women applicants to 35%. Of course, this increase could be due to other factors (including the job ad being retweeted by the fantastic Ada’s List), however it felt like a great starting point. We also saw a slight increase in the number of candidates applying from different educational backgrounds, however, not enough for us to know the cause.

Shortly after writing the senior designer role we discovered another piece of research from the Women's College Coalition that stated:

"Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, while women wait until they feel they meet 100% of the criteria.”

As we were about to start looking for a new junior designer, this felt like an important piece of information to help improve our job adverts even further.

The senior role used 8 bullet points to describe the role (including one point that unfortunately used the word mastermind). As the junior role required less experience, we asked whether it was possible to write a shorter yet broader list. By making the requirements less specific, could we appeal to a wider range of candidates? We reduced our bullet list down to 4.

From a language perspective, we also realised that mentioning the training and mentoring we give to designers would give a better picture of working at Made by Many. We added:

In addition to working alongside a team of experienced designers, you will also be assigned a design mentor to help you grow and develop new skills. However, we assume that you will already have a strong grounding in interaction design, form and function.

Of the candidates who applied, 44% were women. Still clearly more to do, but definitely a strong start. As our software developer Melissa wrote earlier in the week about altering school curriculums, the issue of inclusivity in the tech industry can seem like a overwhelming problem (and certainly we know we have a long way to go in that specific domain). Whilst I have no doubt that wholesale changes are needed, I think it’s also true that small changes can have a big impact too.

As with all projects that are defined by inclusivity, this work has involved many people at Made by Many. Thanks to Nicki Sprinz for the original inspiration, Matt Williams and Heather Taylor Portmann for finding the original research, and to Adam Morris and Heather for helping to write, review and improve the adverts.

*Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger, and Mary C. Meaney, “A Business Case for Women,” The McKinsey Quarterly (September 2008)

John

I applaud the intiative and hope you continue to moderate the language (if that's the right verb), but why no A/B testing? As you rightly say, the Ada's List promotion completely negates any meaningful comparison. on this occasion. I look forward to a future post where you run two ads under identical conditions and prove the point conclusively.

Barry Whitacker

This is neither good research nor good information and the outcome (although just as thoughtless but with seemingly strong merrit) can be that you may get more women to apply but exclude a lot more males from applying. That outcome is not bad if you want more women, but it is bad if you want the best talent (not saying women is less talented, but the pool of talent get smaller). If let's say you have 1000 potential applicants, it is likely that there are more males in that potential (hopefully not for long) and by excluding males you are excluding from the larger part of your potential and with just a bit of bad luck you excluded the top talent.

I am completely for equal opportunity for males and females and every other gender identity and therefor I am happy that some companies do try to limit the gender gap, however, every company seem to fail in actually doing so and causes more harm then good in their attempts. The trend is dangerous.

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