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GenderMag: A Method for Evaluating Software’s Gender Inclusiveness

Burnett, M., Stumpf, S., Makri, S. , Macbeth, J., Beckwith, L., Kwan, I., Peters, A. & Jernigan, W. (2016). GenderMag: A Method for Evaluating Software’s Gender Inclusiveness. Interacting with Computers, doi: 10.1093/iwc/iwv046

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In recent years, research into gender differences has established that individual differences in how people problem-solve often cluster by gender. Research also shows that these differences have direct implications for software that aims to support users’ problem-solving activities, and that much of this software is more supportive of problem-solving processes favored (statistically) more by males than by females. However, there is almost no work considering how software practitioners—such as User Experience (UX) professionals or software developers—can find gender-inclusiveness issues like these in their software. To address this gap, we devised the GenderMag method for evaluating problem-solving software from a gender-inclusiveness perspective. The method includes a set of faceted personas that bring five facets of gender difference research to life, and embeds use of the personas into a concrete process through a gender-specialized Cognitive Walkthrough. Our empirical results show that a variety of practitioners who design software—without needing any background in gender research—were able to use the GenderMag method to find gender-inclusiveness issues in problem-solving software. Our results also show that the issues the practitioners found were real and fixable. This work is the first systematic method to find gender-inclusiveness issues in software, so that practitioners can design and produce problem-solving software that is more usable by everyone.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
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