Hurricane Gender Bias

January 04, 2015

Hurricane Gender Bias

Pretty surprising to learn how the convention of naming hurricanes impact death rates. Hurricanes named after women result in more deaths. A study by the National Academy of Sciences found that feminine-named hurricanes cause people to take them less seriously than masculine-named hurricanes. People are less prepared when they hear a hurricane is named Eloise than if named Henry. For severe storms, feminine-named storms were three times as deadly as masculine-named storms. People apparently think of male-named storms as more aggressive and powerful and female-named storms make people take it less seriously.

The research was conducted using six decades of metrics and taking into account that hurricanes were only named after women after the 1970s when male names were added. In fact, in an article in the Smithsonian on the topic, when men and women were given fake information and maps about storms heading their way, both said that they were more likely to leave the area when the storm was named Christopher than when named Christina. And even more disappointingly, they were more likely to say they’d follow an order telling them to evacuate because Danny was barreling in their direction than if the storm was named Kate.

The findings are surprising and demonstrate how ingrained gender bias is and how the reputation of women as the weaker sex impacts safety. We’ve all read those examples about how the same resume from Christian or Christina impacts who gets called for an interview (Answer: Christian). We know that gender bias impacts pay. I just never thought of gender bias in relation to hurricanes and storms but here we have it.

Reputation never ceases to amaze me.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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