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Clear Job Titles and Descriptions Can Reduce Gender Bias in the Workplace

November 7, 2019

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Men are more likely than women to say they have more responsibility than their colleagues with the same job title, according to a new survey report by Clutch, a leading B2B ratings and reviews firm. More than one-quarter of men (26%) say they have more responsibility than colleagues with the same job title, compared to 18% of workers who are women. 

Organizations should clearly outline a job’s tasks and responsibilities through its job title and description to combat gender bias about workplace responsibility. By doing so, companies will give all employees a more accurate sense of their workloads and a fairer chance at advancement.

Experts say that women struggle to advance in part because of factors such as  “The motherhood penalty,” in which working mothers are perceived as less productive and professionally dedicated than men, women without children, and women with grown children, according to Christine Michel Carter, author of “Can Mommy Go to Work?”

By developing accurate and transparent job titles and descriptions, businesses can help both employees and external stakeholders understand all workers’ roles. With this knowledge, people will be less likely to assume that men do more work than women.

People Believe Employees with Same Job Title Should Have Same Overall Responsibility at Work

While men and women claim different levels of responsibility, the majority of people say it’s important for employees with the same job title to have the same overall responsibility.  Two-thirds of people (66%) say it is very or somewhat important for two employees with the same job title to have the same overall responsibility at work.  Only 23% of employees say that their job title accurately reflects their work and responsibility, though.

Businesses must remember that responsibility is different than daily, individual tasks.  Tasks are individual, deadline-driven activities that employees complete to advance larger projects.  Responsibility is a broader state of accountability and control.  Employees can hold the same level of overall responsibility while still completing different daily tasks.

To designate an employee’s responsibility accurately, companies can make efforts as simple as using “senior” in the job titles of employees with advanced authority.  “Simply designating someone’s title as ‘senior’ can reflect the added experience and responsibilities,” said John Moss, CEO of English Blinds, a window blinds supplier. “This ensures that employees feel their work is acknowledged, respected, and appreciated.”

Other Key Findings of the Report Include:

  • Close to one-third of people (31%) work at companies that have employees with 1 to 5 different job titles, while one-quarter (25%) work at companies with more than 20 job titles. Businesses should plan to have more job titles as they become larger because their employees will likely perform more specialized roles.

  • Nearly two-thirds of employees (64%) say there is no or little difference in the daily tasks two people with the same job title at their company complete, demonstrating that the most important role of job titles is to summarize employees’ primary roles.

  • Roughly two-thirds of people (66%) say it is somewhat or very important for two workers with the same job titles to have the same level of responsibilities. Experts believe that companies must represent the extent of each employee’s responsibility when crafting job titles, such as adding a “senior” designation to the title of an employee who manages other people’s work.

  • Close to one-quarter of employees (23%) do not believe their job title effectively represents their work, suggesting that companies should always determine a role’s daily activities and expectations before assigning it a job title.

  • Just 14% of companies require a change in job title before granting pay raises, suggesting that companies should grant pay raises because of job performance, not just because of a change in job title.

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