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Why The Gender Question Matters

Surveys and forms often ask the elemental gender question, but with a shift of how people in the US define their gender, businesses need to give special focus on customer definition.
In a 2019 report on gender identity, the Pew Research Center found about four-in-ten Americans (42%) say forms and profiles should include options other than man or woman (in ages 18-29 it’s 53%). In a related study, the Pew Research Center reports one-in-five Americans (20%) say they personally know someone who prefers personal pronouns other than “he” or “she,” (in ages 18-29, it’s 32%).
Whether you are designing customer profiles or research, here are a few reasons to consider how you are asking the gender question:
1.     Customer experience and expectations
Our clients invest in research to better align with their customers. The goal is to foster stronger relationships, design the right product or service, and gain a customer’s business. We do not want to alienate the audience while seeking to understand them better. If your customers are better served by a broader gender definition, provide it. How we ask questions affects the research respondent experience.
2.     Confirming research recruiting goals, comparing results
Research looks for patterns and differences. In addition to confirming we hit research recruiting goals, use the gender demographic question to look for important insights from the research.
At Ladley & Associates, we use “male,” “female,” “prefer to self-describe,” and “prefer not to say” in our demographic question. However, we will continue to evolve the options to best serve our clients and research goals.
3.     Matching research design to databases
The US Census is changing how they ask questions around sex, gender, and sexual identity. If it’s important to match up your own database, research or profile results to external databases drawn from US Census data, it will be helpful to understand how questions in this area are evolving.
This topic continues to evolve. According to the Insights Association IDEA Council, “The way people in the United States define their gender identity is shifting and changing, and gender is often a key demographic question used in sample design. The definition of gender has become more fluid, especially among younger generations who do not necessarily find that they fall into the traditional binary gender categories.”
I encourage you to be aware and make conscious choices around this question as we strive to understand customers better.
About four-in-ten US adults say forms should offer more than two gender options
About one-in-five US adults know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun

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