Gender-fair language planning aims to increase linguistic inclusion of underrepresented groups, for example by using paired pronouns (he/she) instead of generic masculine forms (he). However, using paired binary forms might evoke a normative gender bias where words lead to stronger associations to individuals with normative gender expressions than to individuals with non-normative gender expressions. In two online experiments in a simulated recruitment context, we compared the extent that the paired pronouns he/she (Swedish and English), the neo-pronouns ‘hen’ (Swedish) and ‘ze’ (English), and singular they (English), evoked a normative gender bias for Swedish- (N = 227 and 268) and English- (N = 600) speaking participants. The results showed that the paired pronouns he/she evoked a normative gender bias, whereas Swedish hen did not. In contrast to ‘hen’, ‘ze’ and singular they did evoke a normative gender bias. However, among participants familiar with ‘ze’ as a non-binary pronoun, it seemed to reduce a normative gender bias, while familiarity had no effect regarding singular they. These results suggest that neo-pronouns, but not paired pronouns, have the potential to reduce a normative gender bias, but that they should be actively created new words, and well-known to the language users as non-binary pronouns.
As the first PhD Student in our project, Hellen Vergoossen recently defended her thesis entitled Breaking the Binary: Attitudes towards and cognitive effects of gender-neutral pronouns. Congrats Hellen!
How are binary gender norms affected by language? In this seminar at Stockholm Pride, PhD Student Amanda Klsying and PhD Student Elli van Berlekom talked about some effects the Swedish pronoun hen has.
The current research addresses gender trouble (acts that question the naturalness of a binary gender system) in two parts of the recruitment situation: applicant attraction and evaluation. Experiment 1 (N = 1,147) investigated how different Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statements in an organization description influenced organizational evaluations. The EEO statements emphasized gender as binary (women and men), gender as diverse (multi-gender), or gender as irrelevant (de-gender; compared with no EEO statement). Gender minority participants experienced decreased identity threat in response to the multi-gendered and the de-gendered EEO statements, which increased organizational attractivity. There was no significant effect of EEO statement for gender majority participants. Multi-gendered and de-gendered EEO statements increased perceived gender diversity within the organization. Experiment 2 (N = 214) investigated how applicants with a normative or non-normative gender expression were evaluated by HR-specialists. Applicants with a non-normative gender expression were rated as more suitable for the position and recommended a higher starting salary than applicants with a normative gender expression. Women with a non-normative gender expression were rated as more likely to be employed than men with a non-normative gender expression, while women applicants regardless of gender expression were rated as the most likely to acquire the position. This research indicates that gender minorities can be explicitly included in EEO statements without negative impact on gender majority groups and with a positive impact on gender minority groups. Furthermore, a non-normative gender expression was not found to be a cause for biased evaluations in an initial recruitment situation.
This paper tests how gender stereotypes may result in biased student evaluations of teaching (SET). We thereby contribute to an ongoing discussion about the validity and use of SET in academia. According to social psychological theory, gender biases in SET may occur because of a lack of fit between gender stereotypes, and the professional roles individuals engage in. A lack of fit often leads to more negative evaluations. Given that the role as a lecturer is associated with masculinity, women might suffer from biased SET because gender stereotypes indicate that they do not fit with this role. In two 2 × 2 between groups online experiments (N’s = 400 and 452), participants read about a fictitious woman or man lecturer, described in terms of stereotypically feminine or masculine behavior, and evaluated the lecturer on different SET outcomes. Results showed that women lecturers were not disfavored in general, but that described feminine or masculine behaviors led to gendered evaluations of the lecturer. The results were especially pronounced in Experiment 2 where a lecturer described as displaying feminine behaviors was expected to also be more approachable, was better liked and the students rather attended their course. However, a lecturer displaying masculine behaviors were instead perceived as being more competent, a better pedagogue and leader. Gender incongruent behavior was therefore not sanctioned by lower SET. The results still support that SET should not be used as sole indicators of pedagogic ability of a lecturer for promotion and hiring decisions because they may be gender-biased.
“Hen could influence how we perceive gender and reduce gender stereotypes,” said Marie Gustafsson Sendén, a psychologist at Stockholm University and co-author of the study. “It could be more gender-inclusive and produce less male bias.”