This App Will Tell You if Your Job Posting is Sexist

If we want to #changetheratio, let’s start with how we talk to our ideal job candidates.

To figure out why there are only men on this panel at a 2013 tech summit, we might want to start by looking at the way the jobs they applied for were described. Image via Flickr user William Murphy (cc).

Programmer Kat Matfield has designed a free tool called the Gender Decoder to analyze job advertisements for subtle gender bias. Matfield says she was motivated by her “frustration at the gap between theory on bias and practical steps people can take to counter it.”

Researchers have long examined gender bias, though such studies tend to describe the problem, not the solution.

Matfield wanted to design a tool to help companies prevent bias in their hiring process, right down to the language used to describe job duties. On Matfield’s web page, users paste job ads into a text box, which tallies masculine- and feminine-coded words. Although English doesn’t utilize formally gendered words like “el secretario” (“male secretary” in Spanish) or “patronne” (“female boss” in French), our words do have subtle gender implications. For example, we tend to use “bossy” to describe women and “arrogant” to describe men.

Matfield was inspired to create her app by a 2011 study on gender bias in job ads, in which researchers changed the wording of ads to include more feminine or masculine words, then measured responses. Women found the ads with masculine language less appealing, and felt like they didn’t “belong” in those occupations. Men were slightly less drawn to job ads with feminine language, though it’s interesting to note that feminine language didn’t necessarily influence whether men felt as if they belonged in those roles or not. The research suggests that by describing the same job with feminine or gender-neutral language, companies will attract a more gender-balanced applicant pool.

Matfield’s gender decoder identifies masculine and feminine words based on word lists from that specific study. Companies are able to analyze and adjust the language of their job ads to appeal across gender lines. Since releasing her app, Matfield says a couple of organizations have asked her to build custom versions for their unique job sectors. She’s also discovered a complementary set of Chrome extensions, called Unbias, that allow users to hide pictures and names from social and professional networks, giving hiring teams a chance to vet potential employees in a gender-blind manner.

Ultimately, Matfield’s tool reveals just how deep sexism runs in our language. The words “challenge” and “analyze” read as masculine; the words “support” and “empathy” read as feminine. So maybe it’s not simply about changing our job descriptions to read more gender-neutral. We also need to change our culture so that words like “adventurous,” “understanding,” “opinionated,” and “gentle” are suitable descriptors for both men and women.

It’ll be a slow, culture-wide shift, but tools like the Gender Decoder and Unbias should serve as a strategic first step in inviting more women to apply for positions historically held by men—and vice versa. And there may already be hope for a more generous, less divisive workplace in the future. If you, like GOOD, want to explicitly avoid hiring divas, fret not: A quick check using the tool revealed the term to be gender-neutral (though perhaps that’s because it wasn’t a common enough term in job descriptions for the 2011 study to include).


Seventy-five years ago, on January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Auschwitz was the deadliest of Nazi Germany's 20 concentration camps. From 1940 to 1945 of the 1.3 million prisoners sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died. That figure includes 960,000 Jews, 74,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans.

The vast majority of the inmates were murdered in the gas chambers while others died of starvation, disease, exhaustion, and executions.

Keep Reading
via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading
via Stu Hansen / Twitter

In a move that feels like the subject line of a spam email or the premise of a bad '80s movie, online shopping mogul Yusaku Maezawa is giving away money as a social experiment.

Maezawa will give ¥1 million yen ($9,130) to 1,000 followers who retweeted his January 1st post announcing the giveaway. The deadline to retweet was Tuesday, January 7.

Keep Reading