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.

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.

Vacancies for Technical Authors

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

Technical Author jobs – latest vacancies

We’re still looking for candidates for these Technical Author vacancies:

#4092 Documentation Team Leader, Antwerp, €45K-€50K
#4088 Jnr Technical Author / Technical Author, London
#4087 Jnr Technical Author / Technical Author, London SW4
#4086 Contract Senior Technical Author, 8 months, €32/hour Near Amsterdam
#4085 Technical Author, Lancashire £28K

Software Tester and Technical Author – should the two roles ever be put together?

We’ve a client looking to recruit a Technical Writer/Software Tester, which they are having difficulties filling (see
#4084 Technical Author/Software Tester, Surrey, £25K-£35K)

As part of the process of promoting this vacancy, we posed the following questions in a forum on LinkedIn for testers (Software Testing & Quality Assurance) and in a forum for Technical Authors (Technical Writer Forum):

What do Software Testers feel about hybrid roles – where you’re writing the user documentation and conducting the testing? We’ve a client looking for such a person, which is why I ask.

What do you feel about hybrid roles – where you’re writing the user documentation and conducting the testing?
We’ve a client looking for such a person, which is why I ask.

There were a lot of responses.  In general, the Software Testers felt it should be two separate roles, whereas the Technical Authors felt it could work as an information hybrid role. They were more confident they could do both roles than the software testers. There were some concerns, however, over it extending the critical path of projects.

I suspect the roles are merged more often than people imagine, especially in smaller companies. What do you think?

Want a job as a Technical Author or Courseware Developer?

Here are some of the vacancies that have come in within the last 10 days, which we’re looking to fill:

How to apply

Vacancy – API Documentation Writer, Maidenhead, £42K-£50K

Our client is looking for someone to join its documentation team and be responsible for developing the documentation required by software developers using its software. This is a fast growing company, at the front in its market sector, so you need to comfortable working in the challenging, rewarding and informal environment that this successful start-up company engenders.

This documentation covers software architectures, and it also provides information on how to develop software applications using the Software Developer Kits, APIs and developer tools. The role involves deriving documentation from the project source code and leading this aspect of the documentation process within the Technical Documentation team.

You need to have:

  • A degree in Computer Science, Technical Communications or any other relevant technical subject
  • At least 1 year’s experience of technical writing in the technology sector
  • The ability to read and/or write in Java (and ideally other high-level programming languages)
  • The ability to develop code samples and applications
  • Experience of working in a commercial software development environment

Ideally, you will have experience of working in a Single Source environment and Open Source programming environments.

Contact us if you wish to apply.