"We don't have many women in management roles because we get so few good applicants" is an oft cited lament by organisations seeking a more diverse executive team.
Scientists from the Technische Universität München (TUM) in Germany find the culprit could be the wording of the job ads.
The scientists showed some 260 test subjects fictional employment ads.
If the advertisement describe a large number of traits associated with men -- words like 'assertive', 'independent', 'aggressive' and 'analytical' -- women found it less appealing and are less inclined to apply.
But the women found descriptions like "dedicated", "responsible", "conscientious" and "sociable" more appealing.
The male subjects, meanwhile, found the wording of the job advertisement made no difference.
"A carefully-formulated job posting is essential to get the best choice of personnel," says Dr Claudia Peus, chair of research and science management at TUM, who headed the study.
"In most cases, it doesn't make sense to simply leave out all of the male-sounding phrases," says Peus. "But without a profile featuring at least balanced wording, organisations are robbing themselves of the chance of attracting good female applicants. And that's because the stereotypes endure almost unchanged in spite of all of the societal transformation we have experienced."
Related: Making a difference
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