Chinese characters contain separate phonetic and semantic radicals. A dominant character type exists in which the semantic radical is on the left and the phonetic radical on the right; an opposite, minority structure also exists, with the semantic radical on the right and the phonetic radical on the left. We show that, when asked to pronounce isolated tokens of these two character types, males responded significantly faster when the phonetic information was on the right, whereas females showed a non-significant tendency in the opposite direction. Recent research on foveal structure and reading suggests that the two halves of a centrally fixated character are initially processed in different hemispheres. The male brain typically relies more on the left hemisphere for phonological processing compared with the female brain, causing this gender difference to emerge. This interaction is predicted by an implemented computational model. This study supports the existence of a gender difference in phonological processing, and shows that the effects of foveal splitting in reading extend far enough into word recognition to interact with the gender of the reader in a naturalistic reading task.