Emma Johnston-Wheeler
Mar 26, 2024

Stop The Party and VML release tool to fix gendered language

MissType uses AI to analyse emails for typically male phrasing that is "authoritative" and "curt" and make suggestions for more effective direct and empathetic communications.

Stop The Party and VML release tool to fix gendered language

Men's long-time domination of the workplace has resulted in a style of business communications that is overly masculine and therefore benefits men more than women, contributing to the gender pay gap. That problem was the inspiration for Stop the Party’s newly launched email tool, MissType.

Released for Women’s History Month, and developed by agency partner VML, MissType uses artificial intelligence to analyze writing and offer suggestions that combine traditionally female and male language to produce the most effective tone and phrasing—both direct and empathetic.    

Stop The Party, a group of ad industry women campaigning for equal pay for men and women (see earlier efforts like this and this), says that professionalism has become widely associated with masculinity, meaning “distinctly concise, authoritative, and curt communication, especially in emails.” 

That gendered professional communication contributes to the pay gap because women are judged based on feminized language. MissType, and the accompanying awareness campaign, challenges this by asserting that it doesn’t make sense to promote masculine language styles while undervaluing female styles, since women are actually considered more effective communicators. 

The group cites a Harvard Business Review study which found that women scored at a statistically significantly higher level than men on a vast majority of leadership competencies, including communication. Yet Stop The Party says that language such as “I think,” and “I feel,” and open-ended questions and apologizing, hold women back in performance reviews because of the unconscious bias toward male language styles.

To create the tool, VML’s digital production team developed an extensive language learning database that looks for patterns in sentence construction, punctuation and specific phrases, then makes recommendations to make the communication more effective. 

Possible suggestions that incorporate a feminine tone include “starting your email with Hello, Hi, Good morning or other to inject warmth and sound courteous,” and “build healthy relationships with your co-workers [by using words like] ‘would,’ ‘could,’ ‘please.’” 

“It was important that we reinforced that there was more than one professional way of communicating and that masculine communication style should not be the standard,” VML Canada chief creative officer Ari Elkouby told Campaign. “Education was a big part of what we set out to achieve with this tool, so having ‘tips’ explain why we were making recommendations on inputted copy was key.”

"We believe it's time to make room for feminine speech," added Stop the Party co-founder Erika Maginn in a release. "Miss Type is designed to help users understand the scrutiny feminine emails endure and navigate it effectively. By incorporating language that resonates with their authentic voice, users can communicate with clarity and impact."

 
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