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facebook-gender-balanceAn update rolling through Facebook at the moment, involves the rejigging of gender in some key icons in use on the social media site.

My senses pricked up while reading a Mashable article about this change, given that my colleague, Patrick Baker, touched on human sexuality in marketing earlier this week in Is Same-Sex Marriage Good For You?

What got my curiosity going was whether we are blind to gender or gender biases when we blog?

Let’s take a peek.

What Facebook is doing

As you can see in the compilation of Facebook icons, above, drawn from the Mashable article, the old icons on the left show either a male figure in front of a female or a male figure in front of a male and female.

As Facebook’s design manager, Caitlin Winner, says in the article, ‘the woman was quite literally in the shadow of the man, she was not in a position to lean in.’

Some people reading this might think Caitlin is reading too much into this but it is important to be aware of blindness to our biases when writing or creating icons.

Remember, if you are blogging as a marketing tool, the last thing you want to be doing is offending or jilting your readers.

What gender are your pronouns?

While we might consider icons to be visual forms of language, as bloggers, our gender leanings come through via our use of pronouns.

Pronouns are words that refer to participants in conversations or people or things being referred to, such as I, you, he, she, it, this.

I encourage clients to write blogs in the first person, that is, using I and me, which should automatically protect you from leaning in any way in regard to gender bias.

Interestingly, an Harvard Business Review article has pointed out that female writers find that approach easier than men.

Letting the gender rubber hit the road

The real test of our gender bias in writing comes when we choose between he or she when referring to an imaginary client, such as in, this sentence: When a driver first sits in the car, he should check his mirrors.

That choice of pronoun is fine if you follow the contemporary protocol of reversing it in your next paragraph or article, eg, when a driver adjust seat height, she should avoid bringing her head too close to the roof.

However, my preference is to use neutral terms, eg, when a driver adjusts seat height, they should …

Perhaps it might be worth a moment flicking back through your most recent blogs to see if you are leaning one way or the other in your writing and potentially upsetting or annoying readers.

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