Removing gender pronouns from Quip
In our spring feature roundup post, we noted that we'd removed all references to gender throughout our product. To quote that post: "We briefly considered a simple switch from gendered to gender-neutral pronouns, which would have worked fine for people who are using Quip in languages that have gender-neutral pronouns, but we wanted to be inclusive for all users. After analyzing the problem from an internationalization perspective, we decided that removing personal pronouns entirely was the best solution." In this post, we'll expand a little more about why and how we did this.
Why remove gender pronouns from our product?
Because Quip doesn't need them. We only used pronouns like "his" or "her" in a handful of places, but to use them at all we had to know a user's gender. Quip user Hunter Stevens pointed out this problem in a Tweet, and got us thinking about what could be changed.
Some history here: In very early versions of Quip, we didn't even let people pick their gender—we just guessed based on their first name. And, as you can imagine, we got it wrong sometimes. But rather than fix the underlying problem, we just added the Gender dropdown you see in Hunter's screenshot.
Instead of having this unnecessary interface, we thought, why not rewrite the copy to make the pronouns themselves unnecessary?
How did we make the change?
Easy enough—we just switched up copy in the notifications that needed changing. Here are a few examples.
Leaving a document
When someone took themselves off a document, there used to be a line in the document's activity log that read:
This one didn't take much discussion. "Removing oneself" is kind of an odd and hostile way to describe this interaction. You wouldn't "remove yourself" from your office, after all—unless you were causing some kind of trouble. So that was no good. Much easier, more natural, and gender-free to simply say:
Now when you leave a document, you just leave it, like a non-troublemaker would.
Opening a document from a phone
When you share a document with someone, you get notification when they open it. If they open it in the web or the desktop app, the notification simply reads:
If, however, Francine opened the doc on her phone, the notification would read:
For some people, this distinction seemed kind of random. Who cares where they opened it? Quip works just as well on phones as it does on computers—what does it matter if they opened it on their phone? But for others, the distinction was useful. If they saw that someone was on their phone, then they'd probably cut that person some slack about getting back to them promptly.
Hesitant to remove this particular vector of information, we considered switching to the gender-neutral (and increasingly embraced) singular they:
That would have been fine for our English speaking users, but Quip isn't just for English speakers. We localize our app to 12 different languages (13 if you count American and British English separately), and not all of those languages offer gender-neutral pronouns. Taking that into account, it wound up being more practical to eliminate the pronoun entirely:
Yes, using an indefinite article is a tiny bit more awkward (whose phone? the overthinker might wonder). But it helpfully preserves a potentially useful bit of data while also-helpfully discarding a distracting and unnecessary pronoun. Moreover, it can be localized consistently, without being gendered in some languages and neutral in others. All in all, it's an indisputable improvement.
With the notifications taken care of, we could get rid of the "Gender" dropdown in the user profile. Now it looks like this:
And that's it. Not only a more equitable product, but a more streamlined one as well.
How to stay productive and positive while working remotely
With the outbreak of COVID-19, scores of people are finding themselves working remotely for the first time. Trying to stay productive while at home with so many distractions can be overwhelming, so we asked women tech leaders what they were doing to work from home successfully. Along with getting a great pair of noise canceling headphones (game changer!), they have 10 excellent tips to help you thrive in a work-from-home environment.
I've been thinking about women's ingenuity a lot recently; after all, crises like the one we're facing now fuel innovation. They especially fuel innovation from those who are on the frontlines, in desperate need of solutions.
She’s Paving the Way for Women in Cybersecurity: How She Went from First-Generation College Student to IT Leader
A Conversation with Freddie Mac's Stephanie Johnson
When Stephanie Johnson, currently an Information Security Manager at Freddie Mac, was just starting her career as an IT professional, she found herself sitting in her car one night after work asking herself, "Why am I not being heard? Should I adjust my tone? Posture? What I'm saying?"
For when you can't read one more bad-news story.
I would never argue that the novel coronavirus is a good thing. COVID-19 has or will cause many deaths, a long-lasting global economic slowdown, and rampant general stress and anxiety.
As schools across the nation close, and the majority of businesses mandate remote work, working parents are now faced with the ultimate challenge - how to balance their families and jobs under one roof while COVID-19 still remains a concern.
PowerToFly is bringing thought-leading professionals (and working moms!) to speak about balancing our new realities and how to best optimize your time at home. In this panel, we'll discuss maneuvering the difficulties of working from home from taking conference calls to juggle homeschooling/ childcare.
Don't feel the pressure, your children, partner and pets are welcome to join this virtual chat!
Join us for this live Q&A to learn new tips, strategies, and hear personal anecdotes from our panelists that have shaped these women into the incredible founders and mothers they are today. You will have the opportunity to ask questions during our free, virtual conversation and have the chance to snag a giveaway sponsored by PowerToFly and our panelists!
Meet the Panelists:
Christine Michel Carter, Creator of Mompreneur and Me
Featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, Christine Michel Carter is the #1 global voice for working moms. Christine clarifies misconceptions about working mom consumers for brands and serves as an amplifier of their personal truths.
Mary Beth Ferrante, Co-Founder & CEO of WRK/360
Mary Beth Ferrante is a mom of two and advocate for creating inclusive workplaces for parents. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of WRK/360, a career development platform designed for working parents and managers to help companies support, retain and recruit working parents. In addition, she is a senior contributor for Forbes and her work has been featured in Today, Thrive Global, Working Mother, FairyGodBoss, ScaryMommy, and other leading publishers.
Amy Henderson, Founding CEO of TendLab
Amy Henderson is the founding CEO of TendLab, a consultancy addressing the challenges and opportunities parenthood brings into the workplace. TendLab's research-based approach reveals how parenthood can unlock career-critical skills--such as resiliency, courage, and the ability to collaborate--skills which are especially important during this COVID-19 pandemic.