I have a gender-neutral name, so people often assume I'm a man.

However, a portion of the writing I do is for tech companies. Because of the lack of diversity in the tech industry, many of these companies are looking to add diversity to their contributor pools, so they place priority on people of color, women, LGBTQ writers, and so on.

Obviously, my work speaks for itself, but I'd like to have that extra weight as well.

How can I make this clear to editors when submitting? Would a photo in my email signature be strange?

I already include links to my LinkedIn, twitter, and other social media that show my photo. My website also has a photo. However, what's a good way to show I'm a woman without the editor having to click anything?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – a CVn Feb 1 at 13:36
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    But personally, I wouldn't want to work for anyone that made any assumption of my work quality based on gender or ethnicity. I have actually hit that wall with an intial phone call in which someone assumed I said something racist against african americans by my use of a southern colloqiulism ....not realizing that my deep southern drawl could belong to anyone .....after his rant, my manager then told him I was black. :) – Anthony Parker Feb 1 at 14:59
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    My age is apparent here in that I could not immediately see the name Morgan as gender neutral , my bias exists since that is the name of my niece. As I type I also realize the most famous resident of my hometown is named Morgan ( Freeman ) so I see your point. However, working in the IT field the question of gender or pronounciation of names does perplex at times, as I meet people of many ethnic backgrounds via their work, and at times have to pause if I have to make a phone call to them. (continued) – Anthony Parker Feb 1 at 14:59
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    I had this brilliant idea: You could use a method that isn't open to most women: Swap first and last name and introduce yourself as Meredith Morgan. And then I google it and it turns out that Meredith is also used both for women and men. What a coincidence. – gnasher729 Feb 5 at 0:06
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    Reverse your first and last names and use it as a writing pseudonym instead. :-) – Jarrod Roberson Feb 5 at 6:30

12 Answers 12

up vote 67 down vote accepted

If you are submitting to a professional journal that (like many) puts a short blurb about the author(s) somewhere in the article or journal, you could provide a suggested blurb and ensure that there is at least one feminine pronoun in it somewhere.

If they don't, or you don't know, you could say, "in case you need an author's introduction, here is a suggestion:"

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    I love this - that also saves them a step of asking me for a bio if they need one, and I can tailor my bio to the publication's interests as well. I'll look proactive and good on all fronts. Fantastic thought; thank you so much! – Morgan Meredith Feb 1 at 12:16

As a person of color, I've sometimes had a version of the same dilemma. Is there a professional organization for people of your gender and expertise? If so, you could join the organization, and then sign as follows:

Morgan Meredith
American Women Tech Writers Association

or

Morgan Meredith
Member, American Women Tech Writers

If there is no such organization, you could consider putting one together. It might not need to be anything much beyond a Facebook page, since its real purpose is not to burnish your credentials, but to subtly announce your gender.

As a side note, if there is a real organization like this, they might have additional good suggestions or guidelines for your current quandary and/or others you may face as an underrepresented member of your field.

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    Chris, Amadeus -- the best place for answers is answers, where they can be expanded, edited, voted in both directions, and accepted. Answers are more visible and more durable. If somebody provides a starting point or some hints in comments then that's cool, but you don't need to avoid writing an answer because somebody commented. – Monica Cellio Jan 31 at 15:57
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    @ChrisSunami Please don’t delay in answering because of a comment. Comments are not the place for answers, and readers here are supposed to be able to skip them without missing out on the answer. If you delay making an answer to give someone a chance to convert a comment to an answer, you deny all readers the opportunity to see that answer as an answer. That’s exactly why people shouldn’t answer in comments. Many Stacks actually delete answers in comments for that reason (and others). If someone doesn’t anyway, they are doing the wrong thing. Please don’t reward them for it. – KRyan Jan 31 at 18:43
  • I would not put an organizational membership in the signature of a letter. I would put a list of any memberships pertinent to my profession in my résumé. I might put one or two on a business card or personal letterhead. – WGroleau Feb 1 at 10:54

I also have a confusing first name. When I want to clarify, I sign email as "Firstname Lastname (Ms.)". That conveys my gender as effectively as "Ms. Firstname Lastname", but by putting the title at the end and in parentheses, I don't look like I'm insisting on being addressed by that title.

I strongly recommend against putting your photo in your CV, cover letter, or any other application material. First, it opens the possibility of the recipient judging you on your appearance. Second, at least in the US and for the kind of jobs you're talking about, it's unusual, so you would stand out as not knowing how things are generally done.

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    +1 on the photo thing. I've seen that happen WAY too often. – JP Chapleau Jan 31 at 20:28
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    I have to agree that "user29211" is a very confusing name. Signed, "msb" lol – msb Feb 2 at 2:22

I once saw someone in your situation address the problem by adding a (gendered) middle name to signatures. This could either be your real middle name if you have one, or a nickname that you're prepared to answer to.

If it's your real name, just write it normally:

Morgan Ann Meredith

If it's a nickname, that is, a name you're happy to have people use when talking to you instead of your given name, set it off with quotes:

Morgan "Kate" Meredith

You want to set it off so you don't end up with legal paperwork for a name that isn't your legal name. Some of my foreign-born coworkers do this with adopted western nicknames that westerners know how to pronounce and spell.

All of what I've said applies to email. For author credits in the actual articles, a middle name would be seen as normal (at least in the west) but a nickname would be more unusual. I'd skip the nickname there unless you know the publication is informal or you are well-known by your nickname (as sometimes happens with Internet personalities).

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    Using inverted commas is something of an American thing. To my British eyes, something like "Elisabeth 'Liz' Windsor" always looks weird for somebody who just calls herself Liz Windsor. – David Richerby Jan 31 at 23:52
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    @Ooker it would depend on how, and how well, you're known. When in doubt, err on the side of omitting it. – Monica Cellio Feb 1 at 1:38
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    @MorganMeredith oh, oops! I didn't consider the possibility that the "extra" name would be the first. (Which, given that I've worked with a "J. Mark X" and a "T. Paul Y", I should have.) – Monica Cellio Feb 1 at 2:19
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    Note that some cultures, have a practice of giving opposite-gender middle names. For example, many Hispanic men have the middle name María. – Robert Columbia Feb 2 at 14:54
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    one of my friends middle names is Allison, it was his grandfather's name as well. – Jarrod Roberson Feb 5 at 6:31

Use a courtesy title which reflects your gender. Sign your submission as "Ms. Morgan Meredith." Subtle but unambiguous.

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    I feel that makes me look a bit.... old. In my experience, the only people using a title that isn't Dr. are either from a much older generation or people who don't speak English natively. – Morgan Meredith Jan 31 at 11:41
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    really? well, maybe I'm from the "older" generation. :) It wouldn't bother me to see it or use it. – Lauren Ipsum Jan 31 at 15:03
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    I once corresponded with a man named "Windy". It struck me as initially odd, but then understandable that his sig was "Mr. Windy Doe". – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Jan 31 at 16:03
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    In the book A Handbook for Scholars by Mary-Claire van Leunen, she has a section on naming people in academic works. She writes: Do I need to say that male and female authors are treated alike? Apparently, since I have seen an article in which C. Vann Woodward was consistently called “Woodward” and C. V. Wedgwood was consistently called “Cecily Wedgwood” or “Miss Wedgwood.” A pox on false gentility. Of course the same principle may not (does not) apply when not writing a paper, nor when talking about oneself, but something to keep in mind IMO. Even “courtesy” titles can be problematic. – ShreevatsaR Jan 31 at 19:02
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    @ShreevatsaR Your comment makes perfect sense when writing about others; here the OP wants to know how to title herself. There is no one else who might be elevated above her with the use of a different title, or lack of one, because she's talking about a cover letter or a work submission. – Lauren Ipsum Jan 31 at 19:52

This answer may be controversial and it hinges on you having stated that your "work speaks for itself"...

If you assume the tech industry has a bias towards men, then not stating you are a woman would actually be beneficial to you in this case, no?

On the other hand, if you assume there is no such bias towards men, then why the need to stress that you are a women?

Maybe you want to positively influence society by being a woman and publishing in the tech world (this is great!). But I propose you do that without using the fact that you belong to a minority but by your merits.

Otherwise this could backfire and some people might start to assume that contributions from a minority group exist despite low quality.

Though I understand the issue might not be that simple

As a side note, Morgan sounds pretty feminine to me, but again, I am not a native english speaker

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    Nota bene: women aren't a “minority”. – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 at 20:32
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    The OP didn't say there was bias, she said there is a lack of diversity. One way to address that lack without having to do too much is to hire in ancillary positions, such as .. writers. She's looking to benefit from those companies wanting to market themselves as being diverse. As with any marketing effort, reality takes a back seat to success and is generally only tangentially releated to the marketing effort. – jmoreno Feb 2 at 2:02
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    @jmoreno is exactly right. Although quite a few studies have indeed shown bias toward men in this industry and others, many companies are trying to change that by hiring more women or giving more assignments to women freelancers. My question is how to show that I belong in that pool, because my name is gender-neutral (even though you see it as feminine, I assure you it is not always seen so, and many people assume I'm a man by my name). – Morgan Meredith Feb 2 at 2:09
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    @SevenSidedDie Women are a minority in the tech industry. Which is the industry I'm discussing. A quick and simple google search will give you the actual research. – Morgan Meredith Feb 2 at 2:10
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    @SevenSidedDie Sorry; having a hard time distinguishing garden-variety pedantry from Mad Men-era assertions claiming diversity isn't necessary or that I must not be a good writer. XD – Morgan Meredith Feb 2 at 6:03

Another option you may want to consider is to add your preferred pronouns to your email signature. I'm in academia, and I'm starting to see this more frequently. It's particularly useful for trans or non-binary individuals to make their preferred gender pronouns explicit, and it is slowly gaining some traction among cis gendered individuals who want to help make this the norm so it's easier for trans/non-binary people to state their pronouns (explained here). It can also be super useful if you communicate internationally, where people may not label your name with the correct gender, or in cases like yours where your name is gender neutral.

You'd just add something like this to your existing signature:

pronouns: she/her/hers

Here's another link with more info and examples. A lot of people aren't used to seeing something like this, but it's pretty unobtrusive.

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    You aren't wrong when you say that it is becoming more common to see this, but it is important to clarify that this is still very uncommon. There is currently no generally accepted consensus about whether adding this to your email signature is a good idea. We cannot say with certainty how a potential employer is likely to react to such a thing. – Scott Lawson Jan 31 at 21:54
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    This might make the OP's biologic sex more confusing, actually. – jpmc26 Jan 31 at 22:03
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    I don't think this is a good idea. It's likely to be interpreted as saying "I'm biologically male but identifying as female" which isn't the intended message. – David Richerby Jan 31 at 23:56
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    @what I did consider this, but as some mention, I don't see it very often except from trans* individuals or in circles that focus on LGBTQ issues. If I'm submitting work to a more conservative outlet, I worry that adding preferred pronouns would scream my political affiliations, and be even more distracting from my work or cause them to reject me based on that. – Morgan Meredith Feb 1 at 2:35
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    Counterpoint: I am seeing cis allies start to do this in email a lot and as a trans person I find it incredibly thoughtful and inclusive. Also, if something is "not common practice" as a reason to not do it, it will never become common practice and will remain a thing that "only trans people do." I say, normalize sharing of pronouns wherever possible! – fluffy Feb 1 at 8:23

Your work should speak for itself. If they address you in an incorrect formal manner, such as Mr, Mrs, or Miss, then just respond with a thanks with the correct or preferred title. Your appearance, name, or sexual preference is not irrelevant to your work.

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    In this era of Positive Discrimination, it can be very relevant to getting the job though! – Laurence Payne Feb 1 at 23:46
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    My work does speak for itself, as I say in the original question. My concern is not about being called a man or Mr. My concern is about getting my work read by editors who are actively seeking more women writers. I want to let them know I'm a woman so they consider my work (and then the work speaks for itself). Please read the question carefully next time before you answer. Also, "not irrelevant" would just be "relevant", and I don't think you mean that. – Morgan Meredith Feb 2 at 2:06
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    This definitely doesn't answer the question that was asked. – Neil Fein Feb 3 at 22:17
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    "Your appearance, name, or sexual preference is not irrelevant to your work." Is that what you wanted to write? – gnasher729 Feb 4 at 23:50
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    This answer is totally wrong. The work has no chance to speak for itself if it doesn't get published. Anything increasing the chances of publication should be used. If Morgan thinks that chances of publication are better if a publisher assumes she is a woman, then it is absolutely right to convince the publishers. The question wasn't about being addressed correctly, but about using anything useful - in this case gender biases - to her advantage. – gnasher729 Feb 4 at 23:55

Because of the lack of diversity in the tech industry, many of these companies are looking to add diversity to their contributor pools, so they place priority on people of color, women, LGBTQ writers, and so on.

There's also evidence that diversity credos harm diversity, precisely because applicants who would usually be vigilant about not disclosing their race or gender (if not white male) are more prone to let their guard down, and then face racist or sexist discrimination.

So if your goal is optimizing your hiring chances, I would draw into question the assumption that companies will bias toward their diversity goals. It may yet be best to use a gender neutral name and accept the sad state of the universe.

As a counterpoint, in the U.S., companies are legally bound to not discriminate on the basis of "protected categories" including gender.

Source: Harvard Business Review

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    I appreciate the opposing viewpoints (and particularly the source attached). However, my question isn't, "Should I make myself more obviously female to editors?", but rather "How can I make myself more obviously female to editors?". I weighed the pros and cons of doing so before I asked my question. – Morgan Meredith Feb 3 at 3:55
  • There have be a number of attempts to reduce bias using anonymous cvs for job and other types of applications. I believe they fail because the percent of minorities employed decreases when they do this, e.g. connexionfrance.com/Archive/… – demented hedgehog Feb 4 at 4:04
  • @MorganMeredith yes, but Stack Exchange sites observe the XY problem, which basically says that if your question is "My problem is X, how do I do Y?" -- or if answerers infer Y -- answers may include non-Y solutions to X. – djechlin Feb 8 at 21:47

You could create an avatar with a feminine name that you consistently use over the internet. Take for instance the avatar 'Lady of the Labyrinth' (not a professional name to be used in ICT, I agree). The person behind it has the name Maria Kvilhaug. You will find the connection between her avatar and her name immediately.

Don't you send a CV with your application? My CV has a photo of myself in the top right corner opposite my name and address. If you look female, your gender will be clear.

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    A photo on a CV seems to be common in Germany. However, that practice is pretty much unheard of and unacceptable in the English speaking world. – user2705196 Jan 31 at 20:11
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    Yes it seems to be much more common in Continental Europe... Not so much in North America and the UK... – JP Chapleau Jan 31 at 20:30
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    @HudsonReview I certainly send a CV when applying for a job, yes, but I'm a freelancer and not looking for a job, just pitching potential clients. When I'm submitting a piece for a magazine, the editors (generally) don't want to see my CV. They just want to read the piece, or the pitch. And, as JP points out, it's not common in my area to have a photo on a CV unless it's a modeling or acting CV. – Morgan Meredith Feb 1 at 2:18
  • The photo in a CV is not a foolproof indication. I know about a lot of people I have to inspect them thoroughly to figure their gender out. Not because I care about the gender at all but because it may lead to very weird faux-pas asking her for his ID, for example. – Crowley Feb 2 at 18:03
  • @Crowley "I have to inspect them thoroughly to figure their gender out" could be interpreted in some very funny ways XD! – Morgan Meredith Feb 3 at 8:46

Use either a Ms. or Mrs. in front of your name on the application. If they still can not get the clue, it is not your fault!

I am a native English speaker having lived in the USA all my life. I thought Morgan was a guy's name and breed of horse. Tells you how much I do nor know! They tend to be a breed of beautiful animals, by the way.

  • morgan-motor.co.uk/roadster And I thought Morgan Fairchild was quite a famous actress in the USA. – gnasher729 Feb 1 at 23:44
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    This seems a repetition of Lauren Ipsum's answer from over a day before yours. Can you Edit your answer to add something substantial (no, discussing breeds of horses unfortunately does not count, at least not on a site for professional writers) to set it apart from the earlier answer? That might cause it to be better received. – a CVn Feb 2 at 9:16

protected by a CVn Feb 5 at 12:28

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