A Guide to Gender-Inclusive Language in Work Place

Gender inclusivity and diversity in the workspace is increasingly gaining momentum in India. While efforts are being taken to incorporate diversity and inclusivity in workspaces, change is yet to be anywhere near sight. Often used as buzzwords in a tokenistic manner, being a diverse workspace requires systematic change in how we perceive, address, and implement certain things, something that many corporates fail to dedicate time and effort to. One of the simplest yet crucial ways to start is through language. In the corporate world, using gendered language is often status quo.

Assuming one’s pronouns based on one’s appearance perpetuates gender stereotypes and using this kind of language can create stress among employees. And since our words are part of a feedback loop that affects our thinking, and hence, if you truly aim to become a diverse and inclusive workspace, then you need to break down implicit bias and stereotypes, not reinforce them through gendered language. Example? Referring to everyone in the room as “guys” amidst mixed-gender groups. The solution is gender-neutral language which essentially means “speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.”

An inclusive workspace is not just one that hires people from different backgrounds, race, culture, religion, ethnicities, skin colour, etc.; it’s also about creating a safe space for employees bring their whole selves to work without fear of discrimination. BC Human Rights Code is made to keep a person safe from discrimination in hiring or on the job if the discrimination is based on one or more of the following shield grounds:

• Physical or mental disability •Race, Color, ancestry or a place of origin • Political beliefs • Religion • Marital status • Family status • Sex • Sexual orientation • Gender identity or expression • Age • Conviction of a criminal or summary offence not related to the employment.

Difficulties faced by non-binary people due to gendered language is extreme —

  • A Company’s dress code: An appropriate attire is listed in categories of male and female, which leaves non-binary individuals questing how and where they fit into the picture.

Whereas, The Sole purpose of an organization’s dress codes is not to enforce gendered attire for their employees, but rather to ensure if they are dressed in professional and functional wear.

  • Restrooms: Gender facilities can also create difficult circumstances for non-binary employees. While they always have to decide which facility to use—male or female—forces non-binary individuals to make decisions also shows discrimination.

Whereas, a company should utilize the ADA-compliant signage which won’t reinforce gender binaries, such as an image of a toilet in lieu of gendered pictograms.

These are only basic examples of discrimination, but non-binary people are facing even more. Many of them are forced to leave their jobs, due to discrimination. Using inclusive language plays avital role in promoting higher employee engagement, superior customer service and increased productivity—all important aspects of a positive work culture. An Inclusive language is unchained from words, tones or phrases that reflect prejudiced, discriminatory or stereotyped views of a particular person or groups.

An inclusive workplace can be created by considering the following guidelines:

  • Avoid making assumptions as people do not look a certain way or come from the same background, and many may not appear “visibly trans.”
  • Onboarding Process: When you introduce new employees to the organization, use proper pronouns. Encourage employees to list their pronouns on corporate networks or platforms and within e-mail signature lines.
  • Rewrite Gender Policies: Enforce Zero-tolerance policy, and all gendered washrooms or locker rooms and re-write the dress code as you don’t make them feel outcaste.
  • Use Appropriate Pronouns: Use appropriate pronouns when introducing people to their new workgroup. Example: “I am glad to introduce, Shivam Khanna, one of our accounts employees. They will be the lead person on the new accounting project.”
  • Respect terminology:

• Transgender people use many different terms to describe their experiences. Respect the term (transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.) that a person uses.

“An integral part of helping employees thrive is creating a space where every individual feels they can bring their full selves to work,” says Elden Seropian, a software engineer for product at Asana who co-founded the company’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, Team Rainbow. Using gendered-inclusive language starts with proper knowledge and absolute acceptance.

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