Job ads that use gender-neutral language “overwhelmingly” perform better, and yet only 38 per cent use them, according to a recent analysis by Appcast. The report analyzed 473,742 job ads posted between August 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020 from 22 different sectors.

The evaluation of gendered terms was based on a Duke University and University of Waterloo academic study on job ad performance, which cited the most commonly used male-coded words as ambitious, confident, decision, logic(al), and superior. Examples of female-coded words from the study included compassion, emotion(al), interpersonal, sensitive, and warm.


According to the Appcast analysis, jobs that avoided male and female-coded words resulted in:

  • 29 per cent more applications per job compared to ads with both male- and-female coded words
  • 24 per cent better apply rate compared to ads with both male- and female-coded words
  • 44 per cent more applications per job compared to ads with female-coded words
  • 20 per cent better apply rate compared to job ads with male-coded words


In predominantly male jobs, gender-neutral recruitment ads received 145 per cent more applications.


The studies and analysis referenced above aren’t the first to examine the relationship between language use and career outcomes. 

LinkedIn’s August 2019 analysis, for example, found job ads that use the word “aggressive” to describe the ideal candidate deter 44 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men from applying.

And it isn’t just gender-coded language in job ads. A December 2019 study suggests the way men and women use language may have career impacts as well.

In the paper, researchers found men are more likely to use language that “upsells” their academic findings.

While the language they use isn’t gender-coded per se, males were more likely to use words like “unprecedented” and “innovative” to describe their work. This language use may be causing women-led studies to be overlooked: Researchers noted the male-led papers described in a positive manner were associated with higher rates of subsequent citations and references from other researchers.


Another problem with using gender-coded language to recruit job candidates is the fact that it ignores non-binary candidates.

An increasing number of people are identifying as non-binary, i.e., neither male nor female, which is an important point for employers to make note of. Data suggests many LGBTQ+ employees aren’t comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work. Turning a growing segment of the workforce away at the application process isn’t a good look and, in the long term, can cause a company to stagnate.

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