GenderMag Experiences in the Field: The Whole, the Parts, and the Workload — Margaret Burnett

What is GenderMag? It is a method that it intended for software developers without knowledge of gender inclusiveness issues, to test their software for gender bias. Today Margaret is going to share the experiences of companies using GenderMag. (The method itself was described in another paper). The companies wanted to apply it themselves, Margaret and her team just observed.


GenderMag consist of 4 personas, focusing on 5 facets (motivation, information processing, computer self-efficacy, risk averseness and ) This is an example of a persona:


The personas can be used to review software, like “will Pat like this?” or “will Abby understand this?”

Case study
This graph shows the number of usability issues found, where the blue parts are the gender related issues, in percentages of features inspected. A few examples could be when an instruction is to enter something, an Abby would not like it, because she has not received a step-by-step instruction, or if she is asked to click something, she might not like this because of risk averseness. All team found the method useful, and they will all follow up on the findings.

Zooming in more, what worked and what didn’t? Personas were used a lot, while related work has reported on a use between 2 and 10%, the teams in this study were referring to personas 2 to 15 times more, and personas were using in 80% of questions.

Related work has also found that people, especially developers, do not like personas, but in this study they like it.

Why? The personas Margaret designed are short, and customizable toward a goal or location.

Is there bad news too? Yes… it is really hard. The recorder has to write down a lot! What persona, what facet, what question, why. And there was one of the four teams that performed very bad, with contradictions and missing information. A culprit there were detours, which is a common culprit in cognitive walkthroughs. Bigger teams lead to more detours, and detours were often related to having lost track of where in the method the team was.

You can check out GenderMag yourself!