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Zurich added 6 words to job listings and saw women’s share of applications—and hires—jump

November 17, 2020, 1:52 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! SpaceX astronauts arrive at the International Space Station, Taylor Swift’s masters have a new owner, and a new study makes the case for flexible work arrangements. Have a lovely Tuesday.

– The ‘six word’ difference. The pandemic has foisted work-from-home arrangements on employers; one lingering question is whether the more flexible approach to work will last beyond the current crisis. A new study suggests it should.

Last year, the U.K. division of Zurich, an insurer, advertised 80% of its open positions as “part-time, full-time, job share or flexible working” opportunities. (It also used “gender-neutral language” in each listing.)

The results, published today, are noteworthy: Zurich says women made up a larger share of applicants for top jobs, and, ultimately, the 28 senior women it hired represented 50% of all senior hires, up from women’s 37.5% share the previous year.

“[W]e’ve seen hugely encouraging results, simply by adding six words to our job adverts,” Steve Collinson, Zurich’s head of HR, said in a statement. The findings suggest that offering roles with more flexibility could “help women progress into higher paid jobs whilst fitting other commitments around their careers,” he said.

Underpinning the study is a reality we’re painfully aware of; that women continue to shoulder a disproportionately large share of household and childcare responsibilities. Fixed working hours and face-time expectations can be incongruous with the demands of their daily lives, so much so that such rigidity can drive women from the work force.

The pandemic has only exacerbated those trends; women are more likely to take on the additional at-home tasks, such as children’s remote learning, which makes their need for flexible work arrangements (not to mention childcare options!) even more dire.

The new Zurich study—backed by the U.K. government’s Behavioral Insights Team and conducted from March 2019 to February 2020, before the pandemic and recession hit—makes the case for extending flexible working arrangements beyond the current crisis.

It also suggests that flexibility at work is not just a women’s issue. Overall, Zurich says the job listings attracted more than double the number of applications by both male and female candidates.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"I’ve never been able to be anyone but myself. ... The conclusion I’ve come to in the past 10 years is, well, I might as well just lean hard into who I am."

-Comedian and writer Rachel Bloom