Under what conditions does a gender byline bias against female authors still exist?
A new article “Are byline biases an issue of the past” by Leyla Dogruel from Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität, Sven Joeckel from University of Erfurt, and Claudia Wilhelm from University of Vienna was a combination of two consequtive studies investigating the effect of perceived author credibility by gender and gendered emotional norms.
Byline bias refers to the conscious or unconscious bias a reader may have when encountering a name that is explicitly gendered on the author byline, as opposed to just the initials where the gender of the author is unclear.
Previous research highlights that in certain topics, a female byline is perceived as less credible in certain topics. Some research exists arguing that the effect does not extend to all topics. Neutral topics for byline bias include politics, product reviews, and personal webpages. However, other research points that byline bias against women exists particularly in traditionally male-perceived topics such as technology and sports. Previous research also highlights that men perceive women writing on gender equality more negatively.
Gender norms regarding emotion see certain emotions more permissible for each gender. For example, shame and guilt are less permitted for men, while anger is less permitted for women.
The authors examined the issues of byline bias regarding articles written about gender equality, specifically whether a reader is more or less likely to continue reading an article written on the topic by a woman compared to a man . A second research question was regarding the prescribed emotion of the article and its effect on the willingness to continue reading.
The first study was a paper and pencil study for 493 participants. The sample article was about sexual harassment of women in the workplace, with various German-named bylines either with common male or female names. The emotion norm was prescribed clearly: the news comment stated that “men should be ashamed of themselves”.
The first study found neither a significant effect by the byline or by the prescribed emotion. Since there were limitations in the first study such as the relatively unnoticeable byline, the authors of the paper conducted a second study that addressed the shortcomings.
The second study added a topic targeting women about the topic of a female soccer coach expressing anger. Thus, there was a story prescribing shame to men and anger to women. This time, there was also a photograph of the journalist authoring the study, making the gendering obvious. The interaction hypotheses on the effect of combined byline and emotion were tweaked to be more sophisticated.
This study had 1216 participants, biased toward higher-educated people. The results were somewhat inconclusive: there was evidence for less intention to read in the case of female authors. However, there was also evidence on higher attributed credibility in the case of female authors, making it likely that the effects cancel each other out.
Since the intention to read and credibility are linked, the researchers make sense of the findings by explaining that there is a direct effect by the gendered byline that reduces the intention to read, but also an indirect effect on the credibility if the participant does decide to read.
The authors describe the byline effect as weak but significant. The effect on credibility was stronger, and in the opposite direction: while the byline bias increased the likelihood of reading for male bylines, female bylines were perceived as more credible on the topic.
The article “Are byline biases an issue of the past” by Leyla Dogruel, Sven Joeckel, and Claudia Wilhelm is in Journalism. (free abstract.)
Picture: Assorted-color of name cards by CHUTTERSNAP