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Side effects of gender-fair language: How feminine job titles influence the evaluation of female applicants


Correspondence to: Magdalena Formanowicz, Department of Psychology, Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Chodakowska 19/31, 03-815 Warsaw, Poland.



In many languages, feminization has been used as a strategy to make language more gender-fair, because masculine terms, even in a generic function, exhibit a male bias. Up to date, little is known about possible side effects of this language use, for example, in personnel selection. In three studies, conducted in Polish, we analyzed how a female applicant was evaluated in a recruitment process, depending on whether she was introduced with a feminine or masculine job title. To avoid influences from existing occupations and terms, we used fictitious job titles in Studies 1 and 2: diarolożka (feminine) and diarolog (masculine). In Study 3, we referred to existing occupations that varied in gender stereotypicality. In all studies, female applicants with a feminine job title were evaluated less favorably than both a male applicant (Study 1) and a female applicant with a masculine job title (Studies 1, 2, and 3). This effect was independent of the gender stereotypicality of the occupation (Study 3). Participants' political attitudes, however, moderated the effect: Conservatives devaluated female applicants with a feminine title more than liberals (Studies 2 and 3). Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.