Male/Female/Othered: Implementing Gender-Inclusiveness in User Data Collection

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 from 3:45 – 4:30pm in B202/203


You want to gather information about your users that you can use to improve their experience and yours. They want their identities to be acknowledged and treated with respect. This talk is about meeting both needs: How to ask about gender in ways that welcome the diversity of reality while still being able to analyze the data you get back. We'll discuss the nature of that challenge, how some major websites address it, and example solutions for different scenarios.


Gender (please check one):
[ ] Male
[ ] Female

Every day, someone looks at a web form like that one and lies—not out of duplicity, but because they don’t have a choice. Genderqueer, genderfluid, and other nonbinary people don’t have the correct answer available. Trans and intersex people might want to know why you’re asking and whether it’s relevant, necessary, or even possible to disclose their status if they so choose. Many of them will already feel alienated and unwelcome, and they haven’t even finished signing up yet.

This talk is about doing better. We’ll talk about the nature of that challenge, why it’s difficult, and why “just give them a text box” isn’t an adequate solution. We’ll also cover how the issue has been addressed by sites like Google+, Facebook, and OKCupid, and the pros and cons of their approaches. Finally, working from the perspective of someone building such a site, we’ll work through possible solutions and how and why they meet different sets of goals.

Existing or would-be developers of sites which face this situation are encouraged to contribute their experiences. This isn’t about us telling you the One Right Way to Do It; it’s about combining our knowledge to build better solutions to share.


gender, Web Development, analytics, inclusiveness

Speaking experience

Finn gave a less-planned version of this talk at the unconference portion of Open Source Bridge 2014. They've also spoken about related topics at SFSU and unrelated ones at OSU's Beaver Barcamp and for theCAT at PSU.