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Opinion Editorials

Have you audited your website for gender bias?

Gender equality is a hot issue, and your company could take some heat if you think certain people should stay in the kitchen (or make it appear that way).

gender bias

gender bias

A small oversight could become big

Over the last century, gender equality in business and politics has become an increasingly important issue. As feminists continue to bring biases to light for our community, we try our best to correct them. Yet gender bias has long been built into the fabric of our society, and despite our good intentions, inequalities often resurface in our most basic communication tool: language.

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Product Hunt’s gender bias typo

Product Hunt, a small online business that helps customers find and learn about new products, recently got into a pickle for not using gender-neutral language.

When products are featured on Product Hunt, those responsible for creating the product are invited to join the discussion as ‘makers’ on the site. The problem occurred when Product Hunt registered a female maker on its website, and a pop-up thank you message was automatically generated. It read: “Thanks for letting us know. We’ll add @margit as maker as soon as we’ve confirmed his identity.”

A photo of the pop-up was soon posted on twitter with a comment implying that Product Hunt assumes all makers are men.

Though the tweet was not mean spirited, it prompted a quick response from company owner, Ryan Hoover. He apologized via twitter to all parties involved, and then quickly corrected the issue. In the end, the offended Twitter user was impressed by Product Hunt’s quick resolution to the problem. The pop-up memo now reads “. . . as soon as we’ve confirmed his or her identity.”

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Have you considered every angle?

Although this situation was quickly fixed, it is a great reminder for businesses to keep their language gender neutral. Even if you don’t believe in gender equality in business, why risk offending customers with bias language? Proactively comb through the content in your website for potentially offensive language, and don’t forget to edit those pesky pop-up messages! Ask your writers to be particularly conscious of this issue, and establish a correct way to address a person of unidentified gender in written content.

Own up to it, then fix it

It’s also worthwhile to note that Product Hunt’s typo error was resolved so swiftly because of Ryan Hoover’s immediate and empathetic response. Most people understand that mistakes happen; so, own your mistakes and remember to be thoughtful when creating copy, writing public documents, or communicating with clients in general.

#GenderBias

Written By

Hannah is currently a writer and student in Colorado Springs, pursuing her master's degree in Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Before becoming a Staff Writer for the American Genius, Hannah wrote website content and grant applications for a law office in central Minnesota.

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