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Discussion on: Ten Tips for How YOU Can Make Your Workplace Friendlier for Women

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matthijsewoud profile image
⚡️

This is a really good piece that I think hits all the nails on all of the heads.

I'd like to add a small something that really irks me that many folks do in documentation: referring to programmers as male per default.
It's better to use he/her, but I think the easiest thing is to not use gender at all and use they/them. Just saying "A developer can do an API request by doing X, then they can do Y" is a good thing; it's readable, inclusive and makes more sense than using 'he (or she)'.

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csharp4evermore profile image
csharpforevermore

Totally agree. In fact, we were taught that gender specific pronouns were grammatically erroneous. I find it very strange when reading non-prose, such as technical documentation, and it presumes that a theoretical protagonist has a specific gender. It's just ignorant to some extent.
However, I think that if you must use genders, then prioritise female genders since they are under represented. Thank you for making me mindful of such practices. I am a staunch feminist - by which I intend to be the good sort who merely advocate equality of genders rather than the superiority of females (no matter how clear it is that women really do better than men in many things! (-: )

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annajmcdougall profile image
Anna J McDougall Author

Really good point! I know in German, for example, it's usual to use male pronouns for anything 'impersonal' because no equivalent of 'they' really exists for the third person like in English. I'd love to see a move to 'they/them' for impersonal documentation.

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pjotre86 profile image
pjotre86

I'm German and you confused me now 😂

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annajmcdougall profile image
Anna J McDougall Author

Wenn man irgendwas auf Deutsch schreibt, es steht immer "Er muss das Ding so-und-so machen". Man würde niemals "Sie müssen das Ding so-und-so machen" schreiben, sonst klingt es ob als es mehr als eine Person da gibt. Auf Englisch kann man "they" nutzen, ohne zu meinen, dass es mehrere Personen gibt.

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pjotre86 profile image
pjotre86

Now I got it, thanks!

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castroalves profile image
Cadu de Castro Alves

I think "we" or "you" would solve that easily.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

A lot of free software uses "she" and "her" in its examples.

I have to say it's weird that it still jumps off the page to me when I read it because it's so uncommon in other documentation. We want to reach the point where people don't notice it one way or the other, of course.

I notice that the use of male pronouns is almost universal in people for whom English is a second language, and I don't pretend to know whether that's from a cultural standpoint or because "he" is still taught as being the literary equivalent of a unisex t-shirt.

Personally I don't understand why gender is part of language in the first place, I mean we don't have different words to refer to people who are different heights or who were born on even-numbered days. They/them/their is the only option that makes sense.

The one convention I can think of that does use "she" is communications and cryptography - which traditionally use "Alice" and "Bob" as the two ends of a channel.