Microsoft takes a first step towards supporting their users in promoting inclusion

Microsoft Ideas promises to check your writing for explicit gender bias

With its new feature, Ideas, Microsoft is tackling explicit linguistic gender biases that are still present in our culture and language, such as saying “policemen” when referring to a group of police officers, some of whom may or may not be women. This is a great and important step towards ensuring that your everyday communication is as gender-neutral as possible, and we applaud Microsoft for helping people take the first step towards writing in a more inclusive manner.

Does that mean you can just write inclusive job ads and company communication with Ideas from now on? … Not exactly.

So what’s the difference between Ideas (Microsoft) and the DD-scan? 

There are plenty. Ideas will help you avoid explicitly excluding people based on their gender, but it won’t have a measurable effect on your talent attraction and employee retention. This is because the Word extension doesn’t take the following major principles that the DD-scan was built upon into consideration.

  1. Context matters
  2. Implicit bias weighs more
  3. Gender isn’t the source of all stereotyping

We elaborate on these points a bit more below.

1. Word usage depends greatly on context

From the start, our solution has been designed to keep the user’s end goal in mind — which is to address everyone equally with the company’s communication material. 

Using a software that was specifically created with context in mind is vastly different from using an extension that flags gendered language regardless of purpose. A novel describing the protagonist as a “competitive and ambitious woman” is very different from a job ad looking for a “competitive and ambitious team player”.

2. Implicit bias is what really matters when it comes to human behaviour and perception

The phrasings that are flagged in the new Word extension are nothing new. We as a society have been talking about avoiding explicit gender bias when generalising large groups of people (e.g. chairman – chair, fireman – firefighter etc.) for years, and it’s high time the most influential writing program of our time took a practical step to stand with the trend. 

The DD-scan, in addition to flagging gender bias on this basic explicit level, also highlights implicit bias based on psychological and behavioural measures, optimised for the context of external communication between companies and prospective employees. By implicit bias we mean psychologically complex biases deeply ingrained in our society and thus in our language that are almost impossible to detect but that affect the reader in a substantial, and more importantly, unconscious manner.

This means that our solution digs deeper into the perception of a workplace by potential employees based on the phrasing present in that piece of communication in not just simply gendered nouns, but across all word classes. Most importantly, the DD-scan offers inclusive alternatives that have been proven to significantly affect potential candidates’ feeling of belonging and intention to apply. 

Inclusive language in action.

We’ve written about this before, if you’re interested in how it works, check out our blog post about mosh pits — no, really. 

3. Gender is not the only bias out there

A final difference we highlight is that we extend to two more stereotypes, currently flagging age and ethnicity bias in addition to gender, and are working on detecting additional ones in the coming months, to help organisations evolve into genuinely inclusive workplaces and make sure all their employees feel that sense of belonging. Stay tuned to hear more about that!

Together into a more inclusive future!

We’re happy that Microsoft is taking a step towards inclusion, and we hope that Ideas will do its fair share in spreading awareness.

We’re also very excited about our contribution towards normalising diversity and inclusion – as shown by our latest results with our customers. Contact us through our contact form or at contact@developdiverse.com to receive our case study report in your inbox!

If you’re interested in finding out how the DD-scan can expand your talent pool with more qualified and diverse applicants, please write to us at contact@developdiverse.com and we will organise a live demo for you!

Discover your stereotypes and use the right words