aerial photo of the campus in the fall season

Writing an Inclusive Job Description

The language used in our job descriptions can affect the diversity of our talent pool. Using inclusive language in job descriptions empowers all individuals to see themselves as VIU employees. 

  • When developing the job description, consider qualifications that really matter; what would be reasonably required for an incumbent to perform the job's essential functions? What skills are flexible and which can be learned on the job?
  • Throughout the job description, be very clear about what is "required" and "preferred." This may increase the number of women applicants, as women (compared to men) are less likely to apply if they do not meet all of the criteria.
  • Use inclusive language that considers how some words or phrases can be gendered or based in Western cultures. Use the phrase "all genders" rather than stipulate "women and men," and use the pronoun "them" instead of "him" and/or "her."
  • Try putting the job description through a gender-decoder tool to highlight masculine and feminine-coded language. E.g. Gender Decoder.  Research shows that masculine-coded language such as driven, confident, and objective is less appealing for women. Whereas for men, feminine-coded adverts have little effect on how much participants felt they 'belonged.' (Gaucher et al., 2011)
  • Choose clear, flexible assessment criteria. Recognize and reward the scholarship of teaching, professional service, community service, outreach, mentoring and research training, and account for non-traditional areas of knowledge and experience.
  • Strongly encourage language that focuses on abilities over experience. For example, highly skilled candidates can be overlooked  because they lack "the experience." Conversely, candidates from underrepresented groups may lack the required experience, not because of lack of skills, but because of leaves (e.g., parental or sick leaves) and also because of historical and systemic barriers and unconscious biases that have prevented them from gaining that experience.

Skills + Knowledge + Abilities = Competencies

Consider the job-specific competencies required to perform the job. Competencies take "skills" and incorporate them with a person’s knowledge and abilities. Those three behaviours demonstrate the ability to perform the job requirements competently. 

  • Avoid stereotyping, and avoid prioritizing traits and descriptions traditionally viewed as masculine (e.g., assertive, ambitious, competitive).
  • Consider updating your department statement and provide web links, if available.
  • Consider an equivalent combination of education and experience when defining the minimum experience required. 
group of people

Keep in mind that job titles can mean different things in different cultures and countries. For example: instead of "five years of experience in donor relations," you could ask for "experience in managing client accounts, particularly in a post-secondary environment."

  • Ask for ability wherever possible. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. For example, instead of experience writing grants," you could ask for "ability to research grant opportunities and write clear proposals."
  • Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and especially VIU acronyms that can mystify those 'not in the know.'
Diversity Fairness

Consider adding a "Physical Requirements" section. Describe the physical needs of the job, not the worker's physical capabilities. E.g., work involves: Remaining in a stationary position in front of a computer, using a keyboard, mouse, and telephone. Regularly operate a computer and other office equipment. Occasionally move about the work site to access file cabinets, office equipment, etc.