Performance of gender detection tools: a comparative study of name-to-gender inference services

Paul Sebo


Objective: To evaluate the performance of gender detection tools that allow the uploading of files (e.g., Excel or CSV files) containing first names, are usable by researchers without advanced computer skills, and are at least partially free of charge.

Methods: The study was conducted using four physician datasets (total number of physicians: 6,131; 50.3% female) from Switzerland, a multilingual country. Four gender detection tools met the inclusion criteria: three partially free (Gender API, NamSor, and and one completely free (Wiki-Gendersort). For each tool, we recorded the number of correct classifications (i.e., correct gender assigned to a name), misclassifications (i.e., wrong gender assigned to a name), and nonclassifications (i.e., no gender assigned). We computed three metrics: the proportion of misclassifications excluding nonclassifications (errorCodedWithoutNA), the proportion of nonclassifications (naCoded), and the proportion of misclassifications and nonclassifications (errorCoded).

Results: The proportion of misclassifications was low for all four gender detection tools (errorCodedWithoutNA between 1.5 and 2.2%). By contrast, the proportion of unrecognized names (naCoded) varied: 0% for NamSor, 0.3% for Gender API, 4.5% for Wiki-Gendersort, and 16.4% for Using errorCoded, which penalizes both types of error equally, we obtained the following results: Gender API 1.8%, NamSor 2.0%, Wiki-Gendersort 6.6%, and 17.7%.

Conclusions: Gender API and NamSor were the most accurate tools. led to a high number of nonclassifications. Wiki-Gendersort may be a good compromise for researchers wishing to use a completely free tool. Other studies would be useful to evaluate the performance of these tools in other populations (e.g., Asian).



accuracy; gender detection; misclassification; name; name-to-gender; performance

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