Career Woman

The resume gender gap: How male and female resumes compare


It seems easy to point out the differences between men and women — until you start realizing that most men and women behave nearly identically. Both men and women need healthy food and exercise. Both men and women crave companionship and social interaction. Perhaps most pressingly, both men and women want secure, well-paying jobs.

However, there are also instances you don’t expect to find differences, like resumes. Yet, it is here where we can find minute deviations between the sexes that lead to dramatic disparities in employment and pay. In fact, resumes are so gendered that many outlets for resume-writing tips provide different advice for men and women. To learn more about the unfair gendering of resumes — and how to make your resume professionally neutral — read on.

Sexist tips for lady job applicants

For most of history, men have been expected to look for jobs, whereas women were supposed to look for men. Those expectations continue to linger, even in advice designed to help women find jobs and establish careers. Here is just a sampling of the somewhat sexist advice you might find in women-targeted tip lists around the web:

  • Look for good health benefits. Initially, this doesn’t seem like bad advice. In fact, many younger job hunters are primarily interested in finding positions that offer good perks. However, when women are told to focus on healthcare options, it is usually because they are expected to need pregnancy care and maternity leave in a few years.
  • Follow your passion. More often, male-oriented careers are those that deal with cold logic and hard skills, whereas women are more often aimed toward touchy-feely careers that require “passion” and “heart.” If you want to be paid well, you probably won’t be doing something you absolutely love.
  • Be bold. This advice is too vague and trite to be of any use. Plus, few men are ever advised to “be bold” during the job hunt; they are expected to do so. Women, too, should be expected to stand up for what they believe in and fight for what they want.
  • Act like a man. This is the most irksome of all. Men are more likely to get jobs and earn high salaries, but many advice-givers seem to think that acting in a masculine manner is what got them there. In a professional setting, men and women should hardly behave any differently — but that doesn’t mean women should be hiding their “feminine” qualities.

How women really write resumes

Even as women fight for true equality in every nook and cranny of the workplace, women tend to apply for jobs differently than men do. Specifically, women’s resumes stand out for reasons that recruiters don’t appreciate. For example, women’s resumes:

  • Are longer. Only 19 percent of women’s resumes fit on one page, compared to 61 percent of men’s. Women’s resumes contain an average of 331 more words than men’s.
  • Are less explicit. Women are verbose, but they typically don’t adequately explain their previous responsivities and roles. Only 36 percent of women use bullet points, whereas 91 percent of men do.
  • Include more personal background. Women’s resumes cite an average of seven personal distinctions, such as sorority memberships or graduation honors. Men only cite an average of four.
  • Are more creative. All resumes have standard sections, like education and work history, but women’s resumes are more likely to include novel sections, such as personal attributes or continued learning efforts.

Often, men and women boast similar backgrounds and experiences; the difference lies in how men and women choose to present themselves. Women feel the need to provide a complete picture of their lives and professional experiences — and it is easy to argue that they do this to go above and beyond proving their worthiness for the job. Unfortunately, hiring managers are used to men’s slim and staid resumes, and the extra fluff most women add comes off as bothersome.

Removing the gender from application materials

Fortunately, it is possible to put forward a neutral face in your job hunt. First, you should take your application materials seriously, even performing a professional resume review to gain an expert opinion on your paperwork. You should do the same while preparing for interviews, hiring a coach to help you practice your body language and tailor your responses.

While you prepare for your next job, you will come across all sorts of opinions on why women aren’t power-players in the workplace — and none of it matters. As long as you have the experience and enthusiasm to get ahead, and your application materials prove it, you’ll go far.

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