Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 74.57
Liaison Brandon Trelstad
Submission Date Dec. 20, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Oregon State University
IN-24: Innovation A

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Brandon Trelstad
Sustainability Coordinator
Sustainability Office
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Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Oregon State leads fight against gender bias in software

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Researchers at Oregon State have created a method called GenderMag that enables IT professionals to identify and eliminate gender biases in the software they create, configure, or purchase, to make the software more equitable.

The GenderMag research team is led by two OSU professors, Margaret Burnett and Anita Sarma, both with the College of Engineering, who have pushed OSU to lead the fight against gender bias in its own IT.

Much of the software available has built-in biases, often against women and minorities. Such biases can impact how easily users can find critical information, perform work tasks, or even navigate web sites.

The GenderMag method is based on research about the diversity of cognitive styles—how people of different genders think and solve problems. These differences are not a matter of intellect but are important in assessing how potential software users might make choices or navigate technology based on their cognitive styles. For example, when users are trying to figure out how to perform a task using software, some people tend to select the first promising option and then move forward in an incremental style, while other people tend to gather information on many options, and then make their choice. These differences sometimes cluster by gender, but most software is optimized for only men's preferences.

Oregon State’s Information Technology unit, as well as other departments and programs on campus, are piloting the use of GenderMag. Burnett said OSU is the first university to use GenderMag to undertake a coordinated effort to remove these biases from its software. “We are staking our flag in the ground,” when it comes to leading the way in eliminating gender bias in user interfaces and workflows in academia's IT, Burnett said. “We are leading the pack.”

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Diversity & Affordability
Wellbeing & Work

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the innovation is available :
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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