A trial will see the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfA), the government body that signs off apprenticeship standards, drop words judged to be “masculine” – such as “determined” and “boasting” – in favour of more “feminine” words – including “kind” and “understand” – when advertising for 12 apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Women represented just under 9% of STEM apprenticeship starters in 2017/18, according to gender balance campaign group WISE.
Ana Osbourne, deputy director for apprenticeship approvals at the IfA, said that the language used in job advertisements “can make the job more or less appealing to one gender and therefore discourage women from applying for certain jobs”.
She said: “We are looking at how this applies to the wording in apprenticeships – particularly for STEM apprenticeships where the number of women is lower.
“For example, the Institute will trial using gender-neutral language for our apprenticeship standards, which set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of apprentices, to ensure that they do not put women off considering apprenticeships.”
The focus on wording was encouraged by Jo Morfee, co-founder of charity InnovateHer, which encourages girls to consider a tech career. She claimed that one organisation recruiting for senior data analyst roles – Shop Direct – received a 40% increase in female applicants after it changed the wording of its job advertisements.
She said: “Nationally only 17% of tech jobs are female. Through working closely with our corporate partners we’ve discovered that the use of gender-neutral language has the potential to have a huge impact on the outcome.
“I believe it will make a big difference to the levels of gender diversity we see in the digital pathways.”
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