Five little language tweaks

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Create a more inclusive vocabulary by making these five small changes to your everyday language.

Refer to women as “women”

Referring to women as “girls” may seem harmless but in reality it’s sexist. We can all agree it’d be odd to refer to women in senior leadership as “girls” but it also diminishes your 23-year-old engineering grad. Using “girl” in place of “woman” reinforces the idea that women have less importance than men. It implies a lack of capability and maturity.

The best way to fix this is to just say “women”…sorry Cyndi Lauper.

Replace “guys” when referring to a group of people

We all do it. It’s not intentionally sexist but it does technically leave out half the population. When we’re talking to a mix-gendered group or group of women, “guys” just isn’t right.

Try replacing “guys” with “team”, “everybody” or “crew”. They’re good alternatives to keep the informal and friendly vibe but are more inclusive.

“Feisty, fiery and bossy” all need to go

These three words are often used to describe women who are strong, confident and driven. However, they’re words that are rarely used to describe men who display those same traits. When we allow that double standard to persist, even if they’re used in a complimentary context, we end up creating a gender divide.

Instead, call her what she is – strong, confident and driven.

Reserve “sweetheart, honey, or dear” for outside the office

Terms of endearment aren’t always endearing. Sometimes they’re laced with a condescending or threatening tone. Even when they’re not, they aren’t workplace appropriate.

Sometimes this type of language is blamed on a generational difference. But when we overlook things like this, by proxy we also end up overlooking things like racist comments. Allowing people, and in particular men, to get away with this means that nobody wins.

Say no to “female CEO”

We don’t highlight a CEO’s gender when they are male. But often, and we’re occasionally guilty of this too, we highlight a person’s gender before their title if they happen to be a woman. The fix is simple, just refer to a woman by her professional title, “CEO”, “Architect” or “Engineer”.

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