confirmed: I am not a man!

Back when I wrote this blog anonymously, you all apparently assumed I was a man.

Then I dropped the anonymity and it was revealed that I am in fact a woman. But then, later on when I released my interviewing guide, people were surprised that my voice didn’t sound sterner. Because if I wasn’t a man, I should at least be more severe!

But I am pleased to tell you that I have just run several blog posts through The Gender Genie, which uses some sort of algorithm to predict the gender of a writer, and it told me that I am in fact officially writing like a woman, whatever that means.

Ladyhood confirmed!  (Which also means that you all are terrible at judging gender in writing.)

Posted in me

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Belle-Lettrist*

    Congrats, Alison!

    I (jokingly) know that you must be very relieved indeed to have your gender confirmed via some unknown algorithm on a Website, to which you have no connection (unless I’m mistaken).

    In regards to the general gender confusion, I believe this can be at least partially attributed to the no-nonsense way you present your tips and advice. People continue to believe (consciously or unconsciously) that women have difficulties being assertive and just stating facts without emotion. You continue to disprove this inaccurate and outdated concept on a daily basis.

    Looking on the bright side, now you are attaching your own given name to all your awesome work.

    An aside, the first name Allison (two letter l’s intentionally) was at one-time considered a man’s name. Interesting, yes?

  2. Nate*

    I put my blog into that engine and it said that a post I recently made was female (by a spread of about 40 points).

    It’s based on “masculine” and “feminine” words. I wonder how they derived that a word is masculine or feminine (excluding terms of grammar).

    1. Josh S*

      ‘Masculine’ writing is generally considered to have more nouns/verbs and fewer adjectives/adverbs. ‘Feminine’ writing generally has more descriptive phrases, adjectives, and adverbs.

      Also, ‘masculine’ sentences are more often simple and short, while ‘feminine’ sentences are often more complex, with conditional phrases and nuance.

      I’m not sure on how they tell if an individual word is masculine or not; that seems a bit more of a stretch to me.

      (Disclosure: I am no expert. The above information is the kind of random crap I remember for no particular reason. It’s what makes me a fantastic Trivial Pursuit player, but serves no useful purpose beyond that, so far as I can tell.)

    2. Josh S*

      Also, men tend to use the first person singular (I, me) when writing, while women tend to use first person plural (we, us) when writing. Feminine writing often uses the second person as the subject of the sentence (ie “You should…”) while masculine writing uses second person as an object or as the object of a subjunctive mood (ie “I think you should…”).

      Of course, all of these are tendencies, and not absolutes. Statistically speaking, there is a greater difference within groups (women range from very ‘feminine’ to very ‘masculine’ writing, as do men) than between groups (the writing styles of men and women overlap quite a bit, with only a chunk of outliers showing significant difference).

      1. Liza*

        Huh. Interesting. What I thought were merely good writing practices (less adjectives/adverbs, simple/direct sentences, etc.) seem to be “male writing”. According to the Gender Genie, my blog posts are written by a man. Huh. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

        Thanks for posting this, Allison, and keep up the straight-talking, non-nonsense writing! What you say and how you say rings true to so many of us, regardless of gender.

  3. rascal*

    Allison, I feel your pain at the obvious blunder. I’ve been mistaken as a male poster online because a woman would present herself differently. As in subtle, non-overt, make the guys think it’s all their idea manner. What year is this anyway?

    I’ve learned to take that assumption as a compliment regardless of misguided intent. I attribute it all to a matter of style and or contempt for putting up with nonsense. It’s a pity that in this era men are still associated with no holds barred, straight talk and we ladies are too delicate to catch let alone throw or stand up to a line of bs.

    Have at ’em Allison. Keep telling it like it is.

    1. rascal*

      Lovely.

      Gender genie score below:
      Female Score: 228
      Male Score: 287

      The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

  4. Aswin Kini MK*

    Hi AAM,

    I am a regular reader of your blog. I love the way you provide sensible and straightforward advice to job seekers and employed people. In reference to this post, I am just wondering why people assumed you to be a male in the first instance. But as they say, “Old habits die hard”, no matter how modern our society becomes, they still retain some of gender bias. Also, I strongly believe that judging an article using the gender of the writer is absolute BS. Good advice should be respected and taken, irrespective of whoever gives it :)

    Please continue writing! Looking forward to many posts………..

  5. Nethwen*

    Uh, oh. I tried two blog posts under 500 words and two over 500. Only one came out as being written by a female. Good thing I have my picture on my blog!

    Then again, why does it matter? Except for helping to explain point of view, good (or bad) writing is good (or bad) regardless of the characteristics of the author. And AAM? You definitely fall into the so-good-I-can’t-wait-for-each-new-post category.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, thank you! That’s awesome to hear!

      I think there’s definitely something interesting about how our brain processes some types of writing as male or female, and I think we do this even when we’re fairly evolved as far as gender roles go. It’s fascinating.

  6. Brittany*

    Haha, congrats on the confirmation! I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now and aside from looooving it and all of your great advice, I’ve always assumed you were a lady blogger.

  7. Anonymous*

    “Which also means that you all are terrible at judging gender in writing.”

    Or, which means that you can’t necessarily judge an author’s gender based on his or her writing at all!

  8. Anonymous*

    I actually thought this was going to be about someone who wrote into you and the commenters were using “he” instead of “she” when referring to the OP.

  9. SME*

    I second the thought above that it’s because you’re not all extra super fluffy in your presentation. My best working relationships have been with female bosses who are extremely no-nonsense in their communication style. Not mean or rude or anything like that – just no hearts and flowers and extra squishy stuff. Where that approach is lauded in a man, I have found other co-workers positively horrified about it in a woman. Like it’s unfeminine or something. Holy outdated thinking, Batman.

  10. jennie*

    When I’m talking to a client or vendor, sometimes I’ll say ‘I have to run this by my boss’, or ‘I’ll check with my director or VP’. Usually they respond with ‘let me know what he says’ or ask to contact him directly. My boss is a lady and her boss is a lady too. Shocking, I know.

  11. ScottwoodEssays*

    Allison, as a lark I decided to try some of my fiction against The Gender Genie. Turns out, I write in an authorial style that is 471 female to 462 male. Guess I should have that operation after all! Thanks for the fun distraction between cover letters! Love your blog and please keep writing!

    1. ScottwoodEssays*

      Also, sorry for the extra “l” in Alison. My computer does not like the humidity we have in MA and so is letting the keys stick. Still love the blog. Keep it up!

  12. Dianamh*

    My favorite author (Lois McMaster Bujold) put some of her writings into a similar (could be the same, but I don’t remember specifically) program and it came out male when she was writing from a male protagonist’s viewpoint and female when writing from the female protagonist’s viewpoint. Pretty interesting but not reliable in predicting the gender of the author.

  13. Anonymous*

    Thanks for posting this. It was so interesting to read. I ran the test and it predicted the wrong gender!

  14. Tracy*

    I just came across your blog for the first time early this morning, and I LOVE love love it! Your advice is fantastic, but its the style that adds such great character to it, keeps you wanting to read more! I knew you were a woman right off the bat, doesn’t the graphic at the top provide a clue? lol. I signed up for your Free Guide on How to Prepare for an Interview, started watching the video, and sipping coffee I nearly spewed when you said, “Tip number 3: practice the crap out of your interview”. HAHAHA! I just died – love your straightforwardness, on-target, no dilly-dallying style. We need that in this world! (and for someone who’s career has been in the IT industry, I’m constantly amazed how new “coined phrases” or terms creep in and suddenly everyone’s supposed to know. Who makes up this crap?) Anyway, thanks for brightening this candidate’s day and world! Will be checking in daily with anticipation. Now….I’ve got tons of catching up to do, and will enjoy every minute of it! Thanks!

  15. Nichole*

    I ran several of my blog posts through and came back overwhelmingly male every time (for the record I’m female, though I can’t say I was shocked by the results considering my writing style). I’m interested in taking a closer look when I have time to try to figure out exactly why. Thanks for the link Alison, my inner sociology nerd loves to have a chance to come out and play.

  16. Joe*

    I’m very curious, have people written/responded to you differently since you revealed yourself to be a woman? (Either in the letters they write, or in the comments they post.) I’ve only been reading for a month or two, so I already knew you were a woman when I started reading, so I don’t know how I would have perceived you if I hadn’t know. I’d like to think that I don’t respond to you differently than if you were a man, but it’s very hard to objectively look at one’s own perceptions and reactions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think there’s been any difference at all, so I think it was more about how people were picturing me in their heads than how they were interacting with me.

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