- When Goldman Sachs removed the word "aggressive" from its job ads six years ago, the hiring of women skyrocketed, Fortune reported Rana Yared, partner at Goldman Sachs' merchant banking division, saying recently at the outlet's Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference Dec. 10.
- Yared said that the elimination of the word led to her team being comprised of 50% women at every level. Yared added that by substituting one word in a job posting, she and her co-partner "changed the vocabulary around recruiting."
- Before the vocabulary change occurred, an opening hinged on whether a candidate was aggressive enough to hold the job, but Yared noted she didn't know what that meant other than "obnoxious". "The questions we ask now are: are you intellectually curious, are you assertive when you form a view, do you have an insatiable desire to learn, and can you articulate your view with training?" she added.
As Yared pointed out, words make a difference in recruiting a diverse workforce. In fact, LinkedIn's Language Matters report concluded that the wrong word choice can set back the best planned diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts. For example, the report advises recruiters against using the word "aggressive," as Goldman Sachs did, because it discourages 44% of women and 33% of men from applying for a position. Other words like "demanding" to describe the work were shown to discourage 25% of female applicants. However, women and men responded affirmatively to positive personal characteristics like "powerful" and "confident." And both genders liked to think of themselves as candidates who are "hard-working," "confident" and "good at my job."
Employers must consider whether their D&I practices are effective, whether it involves changing language in recruiting or establishing other policies. A self-assessment is necessary; the results of a Glassdoor study released in October found that 3 in 5 U.S. workers said they experienced or witnessed discrimination in the workplace based on their race, age, gender or LGBTQ identity. Specifically, transgender, gender fluid and nonbinary employees said they face noninclusive conditions at work, according to a WFD Consulting study.
However, the data found that for workplaces to establish a code of conduct and have core values isn't enough to bring about inclusion. LGBTQ workers said they want to be respected, valued and feel safe and welcome at work, which can involve inclusive medical benefits, dress codes and leave policies, as well as guidance on transitioning at work.
Employers that can move beyond merely having codes of conduct in place to actions that demonstrate fairness will be on their way to creating inclusive work environments.