TELECOMS firm Openreach is changing the language it uses in its recruitment adverts after research suggested that hidden bias deters women from applying for engineering jobs.

The company is to create 30 jobs in Dorset and 200 in the South West this year as it improves its networks and connects people to full fibre broadband.

Openreach hopes a new approach to wording job ads will help meet it fill at least 20 per cent of new roles with women this year – more than 10 times historic levels.

The move follows research, led by gender bias expert Dr Chris Begeny, from Exeter University, which indicated that, when jobseekers were presented with a gender-inclusive advert, women’s interest increased by more than 200 per cent, with 60 per cent saying this was because of the way it was written.

Openreach is hiring in Dorset as it rolls out ultra-fast full fibre broadband

Despite four in five women admitting they would not consider working in engineering, more than half were interested after the word “engineer” was removed.

Dr Begeny said: “It is telling that the most common barrier to applying for a job, in general, was the belief that they didn’t have the right skillset.

“Women were far more likely to recognise that they had the relevant skills to pursue a job when it was described using gender-inclusive language – again illustrating how subtle shifts in language can drastically change perceptions of women’s fit and suitability for traditionally male-dominated roles.”

Openreach HR director Kevin Brady said: “Whether it’s overt discrimination or a more subtle form of bias, male-dominated industries like engineering have traditionally been challenging for women.

“Our engineers aren’t defined by their gender, they’re defined by what they do, and this research is incredibly important in helping us to develop ways here at Openreach to redress the balance.

“We were amazed to see just how much of a difference language makes and have started the process of assessing and changing all relevant language to help overcome the challenges of diversity recruitment.

“We hope that this will be the catalyst for helping to break down barriers stopping women from considering a role in engineering.”