I received an email the other day, as I do every day from the Herald-Sun newspaper. The email summarizes the main stories of the day and allows me to click on a link and read a story if I choose. Quite normal for any newspaper in these digital days.
“However, one story caught my attention today for reasons other than its content. The heading was innocuous enough “Can you pass the money quiz men and women fail?”.
Now, I love a quiz and so was immediately drawn to the story, thinking “I wonder if I’ll be any good at this?”. But then I read the teaser text under the heading and was surprised that women seemed to be worse at this quiz than men. This didn’t make sense as there seems to be no reason why gender should affect a quiz like this.
But then I re-read the text and was even more surprised that the author had seemed to deliberately (or sub-consciously) used language that was gender-biased. Women, in fact, were better at this quiz than men!
Why would the words “Only half” and “passed” be used in relation to men and “less than half” and “failed” be used for women? Why? “Less than half of the women failed” or in other words more than half of the women passed! As compared to “Only half of men passed”.
Maybe the language was “unintentional” but even so this demonstrates and reinforces the unconscious biases that we all have. This is a great reminder for us all to remember to test what we say, write and think to ensure it’s balanced.
As a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion, Matt is involved in various pro bono activities that seek to increase the opportunities for under-represented groups. As a father of three girls and two boys Matt’s strong beliefs around diversity and inclusion are also founded on hopes for a future where all of his children have equal opportunities and earning potential. Find all his blogs here.
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