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A Definitive Guide to Gender Survey Questions (+Template)

Aysha Muhammed

19 September 2022

4 min read

Wondering how to write gender survey questions without alienating your respondents? How does one ask about gender in a survey?

Is it necessary to ask questions about one’s gender? How many gender options should you provide in your survey?

In this article, we’ll answer all those questions and more! Here’s everything we’ll cover:

What are Gender Survey Questions?

One among the survey question types, a gender survey question is used to gather the gender of a respondent. Although these questions are commonly employed in a demographic survey, it is also widely used in several other types of research such as business, social science, etc.

Gender survey questions help the evaluators understand if and how the respondents’ gender affects the choices and assist in identifying patterns if any. While “male” and “female” remained the only plausible choices among survey makers, it’s no longer the case today.

Case in point, with changing norms around gender identity, people no longer shy away from answering gender questions if they feel they’re relevant to the demographic survey. (Related: The 10 Best Demographic Survey Questions You Need to Ask

Why do you need to include more than two gender options in your survey?

In a 2015 study, scholars Laurel Westbrook and Aliya Saperstein, in their “ New Categories Are Not Enough: Rethinking the Measurement of Sex and Gender in Social Surveys,” elaborates on the driving need to reflect on the diversity of gendered lives and better align survey measurement practice with contemporary gender theory.

In a more recent study by Pew Research Centre, four in ten (42%) U.S. adults demand that when they’re presented with a form that asks about their gender, it should include options other than “man” and “woman.”

These data are only indicative of the rising consciousness when it comes to gender inclusivity and the demand for improving data accuracy by means of accurate data representation. If you don’t move along this hyper-gendered world, your survey results will remain erased of important dimensions and will perpetuate inequality.

Note: Need help with creating a demographic survey that ticks all the boxes when it comes to gender inclusivity? We got you! This template will help you get started right away;

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Approaching Gender Survey Questions: Best Practices

Whatever gender options you have considered and then decided on using in your survey, you still need to ask these questions in the right way, if you’re to gain the most value from their use. Here are some pointers to consider in the process-

Understand why you’re asking about gender in the first place

Grasping the motive for asking the gender question is a really crucial part of the process. Keep your target audience and data-analysis goal in mind while framing the questions.

Throughout the process, you’ll want to weigh in on your information needs and how your respondents will perceive the question. Enough said, unless it is not needed for your data analysis, you can safely skip these questions.

If you decide to ask the question, remember to tread carefully

In all earnestness, gender is often a sensitive and misunderstood subject. That’s why it’s important to reflect and introspect on questions such as-

  • Why are you collecting this information?
  • What is the business rationale behind asking about gender in this form?
  • How will the information collected be utilized?
  • Do you have any legal restrictions on collecting and storing this data?

You also want to be careful not to have it mangled loosely with often wrongly interchanged terms such as “sex” or “sexual orientation.” Doing this will enrage your respondents and force them to opt out of the survey instantly.

How to add Gender Questions to Your Survey: Examples

As American University accurately puts it, “Often the questions are asked because we feel like they should be asked, or because we consider them ‘standard’ demographic questions, not because the data are necessary for cross-tabulation.”

But if you’re certain that gender is an important data point for your survey and want to explore  the many ways in which you can add gender questions to your survey, here are some pointers to get started:

1. Opt for an open-ended question

This is your best bet if you want to make it easy for people to choose their own category. The only catch? You will have to do an open text-analysis of these responses.

“ Please specify your gender ________”

open-ended-gender-survey-question

2. Radio Button Question

The next approach is to segregate the options into respectful categories. A radio button question type would be perfect in this case. If you’re going this route, you can phrase your query to something like ”To which gender identity do you most identify?” rather than simply throwing in “Gender.”

radio-button-gender-survey-question

Gender Survey Questions: Mistakes to Avoid like the plague

“Do it less, and we have a problem;  overdo it, and you’ll find yourself with a bigger problem at hand” is how we can best describe this use case. As much as inclusivity is indispensable, it should not happen at the cost of fatiguing your survey respondents.

On that note, here are gender survey questions to avoid:

  • Giving too many options: The peril of over-asking is real. Creating a massive list of options will tire your respondents before you know it.
  • Giving too few options: If the broader options weren’t bad enough, being a stickler for the binaries will also negatively affect you.

Wrapping up

Asking about gender in your survey isn’t always necessary. But sometimes, most times, when included, it contributes to the richness of data.

Now that more and more people are comfortable with their gender identity and sexual orientation, there has never been a better time to collect them. In fact, when researchers at the Census Bureau conducted an experiment asking respondents how they felt responding to the question on gender, nearly everyone(90%, to be exact) said they were comfortable answering them.

With a survey tool such as SurveySparrow, approaching gender survey questions is made easier than ever. With pre-made templates for every use case, versatile question types, and a conversational interface, you get to send out thoughtful surveys that resonate with your audience.

Good luck!

Aysha Muhammed

Part-time hermit and a full-time writer trying to survive the SaaS space, one blog at a time.Bylines in digital but always on deadline.

aysha

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