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Diocese of St Albans offers advice on writing gender-neutral job ads

26 August 2016



LOOKING for an “able and visionary priest” who can “manage the parish through a process of change”? Prepare to restrict the numbers applying for the job.

This is the message of a guide to writing parish profiles and advertisements, produced by the diocese of St Albans.

The guide, “What Language Should We Use?”, published in February, says that research suggests that words such as “compassionate”, “collaborate”, “empathy”, and “together” will encourage a greater number and variety of applicants. It suggests that those placing advertisements consider phrases such as “nurture the church community as it grows in depth and breadth”, “connect more fully with”, and “person of grace and passion”. It also contrasts two versions of an advertisement, warning that the first will restrict the range and number of applicants, and the second attract a greater breadth and number.

The first seeks an “able and visionary priest”; the second a “committed and compassionate priest”.

The guide was written by the diocese’s Parish Development Officer, the Revd Jeanette Gosney, and the Vicar of Flitwick, the Revd Lucy Davis. It was part of a broader Transformations agenda, convened to encourage and support ordained women, Ms Gosney said this week.

“What we did not want was women to discount themselves on the basis of a word or two in an advert, whereas they would have been perfectly qualified and capable with experience,” she said. “Very often, language happens unintentionally: people were not deliberately writing adverts that were putting people off, and women and men were not consciously responding. It is not overtly gendered language; it is much more nuanced than that.” Research indicated that changing the language would not deter men, she said.

Research conducted in secular environments had been drawn on in order to create the leaflet, she said. One example was a study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and Duke University, in the United States, who found that job advertisements for male-dominated occupations contained more stereo-typically masculine words than advertisements for female-dominated occupations. They also found that increases in masculine wording in advertisements decreased the job’s appeal to women and their anticipated “belongingness” in that occupation.

The guide is available at https://womenandthechurch.org/resources/recruitment-language-attracts-wider-range-applicants/

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