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Words stand in the way of women in tech: A simple change in recruitment ads significantly increased women applicants

22 June 2021

Women occupy less than 20% of ICT sector jobs across the European Union*. Increasing the share of women is challenging since they are less likely to apply to male-dominated jobs. TietoEVRY, a Nordic ICT company, decided to tackle the issue at a grassroots level – recruitment ads. By changing gendered content in their job ads, the company was able to increase the percentage of women applicants by 32%. This is part of TietoEVRY’s efforts of achieving a 50/50 gender split by 2030.

According to a number of studies** the presence of masculine gendered words discourages women from applying to male-dominated roles, as they can make women feel they don’t belong in that work environment. Together with an inclusivity expert, Tietoevry looked at their recruitment history and analyzed the language used in their recruitment ads for implicit bias.

Based on the analysis, Tietoevry decided to tackle the issue at a grassroots level with a new set of job ads with different wording. To test the effectiveness, the company simultaneously published two sets of recruitment ads, one with the implicit bias left in place and the other with less masculine wording.

“As a forward-thinking company in a male-dominated industry, we have the responsibility to actively find new solutions to increase the percentage of women in our workforce – and leave no stone unturned. This is not only about achieving a certain level of gender balance, but rather about the loss of immense potential when highly skilled female applicants don’t see our industry as a good fit for themselves,” says Trond Vinje, Head of HR from Tietoevry.

With a simple change the percentage of female applicants increased by 32%

Tietoevry has set a goal to increase the percentage of the female workforce to 50% by 2030. New recruitment ads are one way of reaching that goal.

In the ad for the position of Front-End Developer, the word “competent” was changed to “knowledgeable” and “driven” to “focused.” In multiple ads, the word “independent” was replaced with either “a self-starter” or “self-directed.”

With similar and simple textual changes, Tietoevry was able to make a significant difference in the demographics of its applicants. For example, the recruitment ad for a Front-end Developer in Finland with the original, more masculine wording resulted in 14% of the applicants being women. Whereas with the more inclusive ad the result was 36%.

“Gender balance is a serious issue in male-dominated industries, where many companies try to solve the issue by setting gender quotas or goals for a certain percentage of women in the workforce. However, these goals cannot be met without tangible solutions and actions taken throughout the organization. The complex issue of gender balance and the loss of women in the ICT industry cannot be solved with a new take on job advertising alone, but an applied DEI experiment can uncover essential elements of the solution. A change this simple can seem insignificant, but the results speak for themselves,” says Laura Smith, founder of VALIDEI Research and a member of Inklusiiv’s network.

Building an inclusive workplace requires actions

For TietoEVRY to reach its goal of 2030, the company is committed to putting the learnings from this experiment into action and will implement them in future recruitment processes across the company. In addition to this, the company plans on setting measurable and transparent goals for gender balance in each business area, as well as identifying successors of both genders for leadership positions. The company’s aim is to increase development and mentoring initiatives for female leaders and to expand the implementation of an anonymous gamified recruitment process.

However, gender equality is not the only topic of conversation when it comes to building an inclusive workplace, which is why Tietoevry is increasing DE&I awareness across the organization through training for recognizing bias. In Finland and Sweden, the company has nominated diversity and inclusion leads to oversee the actions taken towards an inclusive workplace.

“When it comes to inclusivity and equality in the ICT industry, our work is by no means done. We work constantly to create a workplace, where minorities are represented equally. We hope that we can lead by example and encourage other companies to join us in developing tangible solutions that help the industry as a whole to move forward. By taking small actions every day, we can make a big difference,” concludes Vinje.

Download Laura Smith’s (of VALIDEI Research and Inklusiiv’s network) 5+1 key takeaways for more inclusive recruiting

Download materials for the press

* 2019. Eurostat.
** Gaucher, Friesen & Kay, 2011, Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality

For more information, please contact

Tietoevry Newsdesk,, tel. +35840 570 4072

About TietoEVRY

TietoEVRY creates digital advantage for businesses and society. We are a leading digital services and software company with a local presence and global capabilities. Our Nordic values and heritage steer our success. Headquartered in Finland, TietoEVRY employs around 24,000 experts globally. The company serves thousands of enterprise and public sector customers in more than 90 countries. TietoEVRY’s annual turnover is approximately EUR 3 billion and its shares are listed on the NASDAQ in Helsinki and Stockholm as well as on the Oslo Børs.

Eager to learn more?

Trond Vinje

Head of HR

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