Women's Jobs, Men's Jobs

Women's Jobs, Men's Jobs

Attracting the best talent

Research shows that women are less likely to apply for jobs for which they do not have all of the essential and desirable criteria. If jobs are not advertised formally then women, who tend to have less access to informal workplace networks, are less likely to be aware of development and promotion opportunities. Ensuring that a broad range of methods are used to advertise job vacancies will mean that you will reach a wider pool of potential applicants.

This might include:

  • Local or national newspapers
  • Online recruitment sites (e.g. s1jobs, indeed.co.uk, monster.co.uk)
  • Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn)
  • Job Centre
  • Employment agencies

Setting qualification requirements for jobs

While you may need staff to have particular skills, experience or qualifications to do the job, you must ensure that the requirements you list in job advertisements, person specifications and job descriptions are essential for the demands of the post.

For example, requiring applicants to have ‘recent experience’ might exclude women who have had a career break to raise children, or who are currently on maternity leave. Similarly, by requiring applicants to have obtained certain skills ‘in a similar environment’, employers might be excluding people who have gained equally valuable skills in the home environment, through volunteering, and so on.

By considering alternative or equivalent qualifications and/or experience gained outside of work as acceptable criteria for vacancies, employers can maximise their chances of recruiting the best talent.

When it’s hard to fill a vacancy

Many businesses find it hard to find skilled and talented people. If you are in this position, it might be helpful to consider ways of encouraging different groups of people to apply for your vacancies.

Women and men who aspire to work in occupations more common to the opposite sex often feel discouraged from doing so. This is because of stereotyping about women's and men's abilities and preferences, access to training, and inflexible working practices.

Businesses which adapt their recruitment processes and encourage applications from the widest possible pool are more likely to attract and retain the staff they need.

Methods of encouraging applications from the widest possible pool:

  • Ensuring job adverts are worded to encourage applications from both men and women. Any pictures in adverts should represent both sexes.
  • Offering pre-interview training sessions for potential employees to learn about the business and the skills required for the vacant post.
  • Offering work experience opportunities which avoid gender stereotyping. For example, engineering and construction placements for girls as well as boys.
  • Offering flexible working.
  • Providing induction training for women returners whose family related career breaks may mean recent work experience is limited.
  • Induction training should be designed to fully introduce staff to the business and their role within it.

Advertising vacancies

When advertising your job vacancy, avoid using gender specific recruitment adverts (such as for ‘handyman’ or ‘waitress’), which may imply only one particular gender is suitable for the job. This can amount to direct sex discrimination, which is unlawful. Adverts should use gender neutral terms that can be applied equally to women or men.

Also be aware of indirect sex discrimination. This can occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice is applied to all staff, but can particularly disadvantage women or men.

When using images in a job advert, make sure these do not appear to favour or suggest a particular type of person should apply for the post (for example, white, male, young). Having gender neutral images in adverts will broaden the appeal of the advert.

The Equality Act 2010 does, however, allow advertisements aimed specifically at one gender, in very limited circumstances. One reason for this is in cases where there is a genuine occupational requirement for an employee to be a particular gender. This could apply to caring roles, where personal care is delivered to clients of one gender or another.

Positive action in recruitment

If you've identified that certain groups are under-represented in a particular role within your business, you can take positive action measures to try to address this. In recruitment, this can be done before, or at, the application stage. These steps can include encouraging people from those groups to apply or helping people with particular protected characteristics to perform to the best of their ability (for example, by giving them training or support not available to other applicants).


A design company is looking to take on a new software developer. All of its current software developers are men, so the company directors decide that they should try to target women for the position. The company contacts Women in Technology, an organisation which promotes career opportunities to women working in information technology, to advertise the vacant position. The advertisement reaches a much wider pool, and there is an increase in female applicants.

Positive action can be used in a tie break situation, where two applicants are equally well qualified but one shares a protected characteristic and the other does not. In the example above, the design company could select a female candidate over the male candidate, providing she was equally well qualified, in furtherance of the employer’s efforts to have a more representative workforce.

This is not the same as ‘positive discrimination’, which is unlawful. If, after advertising for the post, a man applied and was better qualified than a female applicant, the employer would have to offer the job to the male candidate, even though they were targeting women in an effort to redress the gender imbalance in their workforce. To offer a post to a less well qualified person because they share a protected characteristic is discriminatory.

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