Is there gender bias in your Technical Author job advert?

Simon Morisawa-Bostock pointed me towards an article on gender bias in job advertisements (You Don’t Know It, But Women See Gender Bias in Your Job Postings):

A scientific study of 4,000 job descriptions revealed that a lack of gender-inclusive wording caused significant implications for recruiting professionals tasked to recruit women to hard-to-fill positions underrepresented by women.

Researchers studied gender wording in job advertisements and job descriptions and the effect of gender wording on job seekers. The researchers first established that women’s style of communication is more communal, using more emotional and social words than men’s style of speech.

The researchers linguistically coded job descriptions found in a U.S. Department of Labor database that were predominately populated for masculine-themed words such as active, ambitious, analytical, competitive, dominate, challenging, confident, decisive, determined, independent, leader, objective, etc., as well as feminine-themed words such as committed, connected, cooperative, dependable, interpersonal, loyal, responsible, supportive, trust, etc. The results confirmed that job descriptions for male-dominated jobs contained more masculine-themed words associated with male stereotypes than job descriptions from female-dominated jobs and vice versa.

Alarm bells ring in my mind when people talk about “a women’s style of communication”. As a number of commentators at the end of the article pointed out, many of the words and phrases the researchers identified as “gender-themed” could also be attributed to differing personality and behavioural styles.

Technical Authoring is a profession that has a roughly 50:50 gender split, requiring some so-called masculine traits (e.g. independent, analytical, active) and some so-called feminine traits (e.g. committed, connected, cooperative, dependable, responsible, supportive). However, there are some “masculine” traits you wouldn’t normally associate with the role and expect to see in a job advert – such as competitive, dominate, challenging, confident, decisive and determined.

We do receive, on occasions, job descriptions that don’t really reflect the attributes associated with successful technical communicators. Part of the value a specialist technical author recruitment agency provides is to reword job descriptions so that will attract the right type of candidates. I took a brief look at some of the recent job descriptions we’ve received from clients, and I couldn’t find any evidence of a dominance of “masculine” or “feminine” words in the job descriptions. From that perspective, there was no particular bias that needed to be mitigated.

I  looked at whether some of the “masculine” words appeared in job adverts for Technical Authors posted elsewhere on the Web. Again, there seemed to be no particular bias. Having said that, there were a few notable examples:

“As Technical/Training Author you must boast a great knowledge and experience in technical authoring, a demonstrable record of producing high-quality technical documentation and materials within a software product environment, and experience of training external clients and internal teams. … This role demands a confident, client facing Technical Author who is at with working in a software house.”

“As an exceptional Technical Author you will be adept at delivering reader-friendly, technically accurate and complete product documentation on time to demanding schedules…Our client is looking for only the most exceptional and talented candidates – true rockstars of their profession.”

I suspect these organisations will struggle to find suitable candidates.

What do you think? Have you seen inappropriately worded job descriptions for Technical Authors? Share your thoughts below.

Deciding between a contract and a permanent Technical Author

Flickr vacancy image CC by LOLen One question that seems to being asked a lot by our clients at the moment, is whether they should hire a permanent or a contract Technical Author.

At first sight, it may appear that a contractor will cost more than taking someone on as an employee, but that’s not always the case. With a contractor, you’re only paying for the days that person works. You’re not paying for public holidays (8 days), sick pay (the UK average is 5 day’s absence per year), the employee’s holiday (20-25 days), employers’ National Insurance contribution (12%), pension, health insurance, training and career development, plus any other benefits an employee might expect (mobile phone, laptop, company car etc). You’re also not paying an upfront recruitment agency fee for hiring an employee.

The decision between a permanent person and a contractor may be based on reasons other than cost. If you want to build a team or company culture, or have the same staff for a long term, you’re more likely to want to want an employee. If work comes in peaks and troughs, where there may not be enough work in some periods, you’re more likely to want a contractor. You may be able to get a contractor in more quickly than hiring someone on a permanent basis (where there may be a time-consuming recruitment process). Each have their merits.

How do you make the decision between the two options? You can share your thoughts below.

Flickr image: LOLren

New Technical Author vacancies

#4138 Technical Author/API Documentation Writer, City of London, £37K-£40K DOE

This is an opportunity to join a technical writing team within a fast-growing, independent software company. Our client develops Web-based financial trading software for the world’s largest financial institutions. They have an immediate vacancy for a Technical Author with a passion for technical communication.

#4137 Technical Author, Cambridge, £28K-£40K DOE

One of the most successful software companies in Cambridge is looking to recruit a Technical Author to join its team. The company has grown rapidly over recent years, based on a philosophy of hiring great people, providing an enjoyable working culture and environment, and building great products.

#4136 Lead Technical Author Leeds/Rhubarb Triangle Circa £30K

Our client, based south of Leeds, is the leading supplier of document management software to the NHS, and it has plans to grow within the UK and internationally. It is looking to recruit a Lead Technical Author.

This is a great opportunity to lead their documentation and video strategy, along with the opportunities that result from working for a growing business.

Vacancy – #4120 Technical Author, Gloucestershire. £30K-£35K

Our client is looking to recruit a permanent Technical Author to join its team of writers. You’ll be documenting high-tech engineering equipment, developing operations and maintenance guides (and some training courseware).

You need to have experience of authoring in a single source environment, although they will also consider a junior Technical Author, whom they would train up.  You also need to be able to create 2D and 3D graphical information. Ideally, you will have a degree, and you must have some technical authoring experience.

The client offers excellent staff benefits, places an emphasis on staff development, and there is the opportunity for some travel for work overseas.

See #4120 Technical Author, Gloucestershire. £30K-£35K

Vacancies for Technical Authors

We have clients looking to recruit Technical Authors for the following positions: