Be gender-inclusive

Avoid sexism when marketing your tech product or writing documentation. Despite stereotypes, men are not the only people who use computers.

You can avoid the ‘all competent computer users are male’ assumption by:

  • Using gender-neutral language in your documentation. Don’t use ‘he’ as a generic pronoun to refer to your users – instead of saying something like ‘a user should go to the Preferences menu to choose his settings’, rewrite the sentence to be gender-neutral.┬áIn some languages, using ‘he’ as a generic pronoun is typical, but in English, many people consider this offensive or sexist. A good way of doing this is making the subject of the sentence plural, so it reads ‘users should go to the Preferences menu to choose their settings’. You can also use the second person: ‘you should go to the Preferences menu to choose your settings’, or use the singular ‘they’ as a gender-neutral pronoun: ‘a user should go to the Preferences menu to change their settings’. NB: some traditionalists object to the singular-they construction, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
  • Showing different kinds of people using your product if you use images to advertise your application or game. Show people of all genders, not just men. Try to make sure there’s a mixed group of people, so it doesn’t look like tokenisation where you’ve got a single woman in a sea of men.
  • Don’t use women as your image of a novice or non-technical computer user, like guides that write about ‘Linux that your mother can use’. The Geek Feminism wiki has a good article about avoiding making women the stereotype of novice or non-technical computer users, which is worth a read if you’re trying to make your website, game, operating system or application more inclusive. There are men who don’t have a clue what FTP, PHP and Angular are, and there are women who are experts at all those things. Don’t be sexist and pander to tired, hurtful assumptions about the gender of your users.

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