Advertising roles with flexible working boosts applications from women

Research finds using gender-neutral language and offering different work patterns could open up more diverse talent pools

Women are more likely to apply for senior level roles if the job advert offers flexible hours and uses gender-neutral language, a government-backed study has found.

The study for insurance company Zurich, conducted by Behavioural Insights Team, suggests that more women could apply for top jobs if employers advertised roles with flexible-working terms and gender-neutral language.

Zurich, which employs about 4,500 people across the UK, began advertising all its vacancies with part-time, full-time, job-share or flexible-working options last year. Coupled with the use of gender-neutral language in every job advert, Zurich said it had seen a “significant change” in the type of candidate applying for jobs.

The insurance firm saw a 16 per cent increase in the absolute number of female applicants as a direct result of the initiative. This translated to a 6 percentage point increase in the proportion of applicants who were female, which rose from 36 per cent for all applicants between January 2017 and March 2019 to 42 per cent in the time between March 2019 and the end of February 2020.

Additionally, there was a 19 per cent jump in the absolute number of women applying for senior roles – a 6 percentage points increase in the proportion of applicants, rising from 31 per cent to 37 per cent over the same period.

Employees shouldn’t feel forced to compromise on career advancement for flexibility.  People need flexibility for a range of reasons such as balancing work with childcare or eldercare responsibilities, or to pursue other interests.”

Employers that recognise the need for flexibility need to provide options such as compressed hours or job shares. All levels of employees are likely to benefit from greater inclusion and diversity, increased motivation and greater agility to respond to customer and client needs.

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