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‘Leading’ by example? Gendered language in Human Resource job adverts

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sharon MavinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


While there has been an increase of women in the workplace, why do they remain underrepresented at the senior level, even in women-dominated occupations such as human resources (HR)? This article examines gendered wording in UK HR job adverts and the extent to which job adverts are a gendered practice contributing to women’s underrepresentation in senior roles - even within a women-dominated profession. We analysed 158 HR job adverts to identify the use of gendered language, traits and behaviours, equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI), and flexible working practices. Findings show that as the salary or title seniority increases, the proportion of masculine words in the job adverts increases, the prevalence of EDI statements, and flexible working practices decreases. We theorise how job adverts are a hidden gendered barrier to women’s progress in HR, contributing to the (re)production of patriarchy, the masculine discourse of leadership and a negative cycle sustaining hierarchical segregation where men dominate in senior roles. HR is not leading by example in reducing systemic inequality practices and is complicit in reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ridgeway M, Oldridge L, Mavin S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Resource Management Journal

Year: 2024

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 19/03/2024

Acceptance date: 14/03/2024

Date deposited: 02/04/2024

ISSN (print): 0954-5395

ISSN (electronic): 1748-8583

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12549


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