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Assuming Gender in Email

Avoid assuming gender in your business email communications.

You know what happens when you assume, right?

Anyone who follows this blog knows to not assume anything when it comes to our email communications. The fact is that assuming rarely leads to anything positive. That’s why if you are unsure; just ask.

For example, in the global environment in which we all are now doing business, assumptions can lead to lost opportunity. Particularly to assume by virtue of a contact’s name, if they are male or female, can cause you to not make a very good first impression.

Examples of Misgendering

A site visitor writes:

My name is Nikita. It’s a typical Russian male name, but when I send emails to other countries, people got some problems with identifying my gender when looking at my sig. As a result, in response I receive messages starting with “dear ms. Nikita” Can I put “mr” somewhere in the sig to avoid misunderstanding?

Putting a Mr. in your sig file for first contact would most certainly set the record straight. However, that may make you appear more formal than you may prefer. If you are a formal guy — then that’s okay. If not, you could always remove the Mr. on subsequent communications.

What I would recommend is if someone misidentifies your gender based on your name, kindly sent them straight. “By the way, I’m a male. Just thought you would want to know. “

Here’s how one of my readers tries to prevent this with his particular name situation:

I am a guy and happen to have two (possible) female first names. I’ve been in the business world for almost 20 years and I have never bothered to add a Mr. in front of my first name.

What I do is sign-off as “Alexander ‘Alex’ [last name here]”. This is just one suggestion for those of us with nicknames that can be considered for either gender.

Humble Apologies

When you discover that you’ve made this assumption in error — humbly apologize. Hopefully, you are not the first to do so and the person on the other side will understand.

Now that I think about it, I email folks with gender neutral names all the time (Pat, Chris, Kerry, Robyn, Frances, Kylie, Sam, Joe, Bernie). I’ve never thought of gender in how I communicate with anyone who emails me. I email everyone the same way. With that said, this is an issue that wouldn’t hurt for us all to be cognizant of if we do business in the global arena.

Anyone in this situation willing to share how they handle this in the comments below? Happy to add your suggestions to this post.

Care to share?