Are job ads in the automotive retailing sector gendered? You might reasonably assume the answer is YES particularly in light of the fact that unlike many retail roles, car sales is a male-dominated workplace, where only 20% of the workforce is female.
Well, read on because the findings might surprise you and support the view that the root causes of the lack of women in Automotive Retailing is complex and multifactorial.
The Gendered Language Divide
We are surrounded by gendered language in a range of advertising and communications. Coke and Pepsi worked out that calorie conscious men associated ‘Diet’ with female which prompted them to launch arguably the same product but one that now speaks to men ‘Coke Zero’ and ‘Pepsi Max’. Think Gillette with its male shavers Mach3Turbo, M3Power Nitro compared with its pastel coloured varieties branded ‘Venus’, ‘Daisy’ and ‘Gillette for Women’.
What about when it comes to job adverts- we want to attract the best talent, right? Well the right language matters. We know that women are less likely to apply for jobs that are male-labelled and men are less likely to apply for jobs that are female-labelled. Research has shown, the more women infer jobs to be male-dominated the less they find them appealing, despite reporting that they had the skills to do the job. People self-select into jobs based on preferences and where they feel they belong- job ads and job descriptions provide the information and behavioural cues.
Words that Attract Men and Words that Attract Women
Gendered wording, include those reinforcing masculine stereotypes such as – leader, competitive, dominant, compared with feminine wording such as- support, understand, interpersonal. The study “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality”, from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology provides a list of 98 gendered words, half are masculine whilst the remainder are feminine.
Much like the author did in their study, I went about using this list to measure the degree to which gender-coded words appeared in job advertisements for Car Sales roles across South Australia and Victoria, listed on SEEK. In total 48 roles were analysed, representing car sales roles for both new and used cars, including the following brands; Mazda, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Holden, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and Bentley.
Gender Decoding Is Only a Click Away
Whilst trolling through 48 job ads to locate a list of almost 100 gendered words would be no easier than trying to find a needle in a haystack, it can in fact be done very quickly. Here’s the tip- try Gender Decoder for Job Ads which draws directly from the study referenced earlier. This tool checks job adverts for the appearance of any of gendered words, then calculates the relative proportion of masculine-coded and feminine-coded words to reach an overall verdict on the gender-coding of the advert.
Go Gender Neutral for the Best Talent
Half of the job ads for car sales roles were masculine-worded, a third were feminine-worded, whilst the remainder (17%) were gender neutral. In these ads the most frequently used masculine coded words were – leads, driven, challenge and individual, whilst the most frequently used feminine coded words were – interpersonal, supportive and responsible.
Whilst these results are skewed to job ads that were worded to attract male candidates, it is encouraging to see that a proportion were worded to appeal to women. Interestingly the least common was job ads gendered neutral in wording which some scholars would argue is exactly what’s required to attract the best talent- female or male. By removing the gender filter candidates focus instead on how well they perceive their skills, capabilities and experiences are a match. So there’s work still to be done.
Whilst analysing this information I also became aware of gendered images in the job ad’s themselves. There were 6 out of the 48 jobs ads that included such an image, all of them male. Despite this image, appealing to male candidates, only 2 of the ads were masculine-coded. The remaining 4 ads were equally coded feminine or gender neutral. So clearly whilst the right language matters, so do images and a plethora of other factors.
However small, reviewing and adapting your job ads to ensure they are coded gender neutral, is an important step towards achieving gender equality in Automotive Retailing. What’s more it’s free and simple- 2 words we all love to hear!!
Yvonne Bowyer is a Director at CMS Strategic Automotive Advisors and supports dealerships to achieve gender equality and reap the rewards. Hear her present on this topic at the 2016 Australian Automotive Dealers Association National Convention, at 1.45pm at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Thursday 8th September 2016.