How to successfully use gender-inclusivity in your communication efforts

Inclusive Corporate Communication

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Gender-sensitive language as an important gender equality tool

Communication that appeals to everyone and excludes no one promotes an inclusive corporate culture and shapes the company’s image. We help implementing gender-sensitive language throughout all your communication efforts. A workshop is typically conducted remotely or on-site to determine the most effective communication format and establish a framework for future communication.

Are you lacking the resources to adapt existing content to reflect gender-specific considerations? We are happy to take care of that as well, quickly, and reliably. Reach out to us today!

Why gender-inclusive language matters

Your corporate communication conveys your values, shapes your company or brand image, and guides the actions of others. With well-chosen and thought-out expressions you show respect, tolerance, and appreciation to your clients, business partners, staff, as well as potential employees.

It is important to consider gender as a vital tool for equality and visibility within corporate language to promote and represent an inclusive corporate culture without any form of discrimination, sexism, or racism. Therefore, we recommend adopting a communication strategy that aims to reach all stakeholders without any exclusions.

Different strategies need to be considered when using gender-inclusive language, specifically in international markets and for content localization. In fact, every language has a distinct approach to gender-inclusivity, depending on cultural backgrounds and different approaches on a linguistic and grammatical level.

This also includes local legislations: For example, Germany has legally adopted the possibility for its citizens to identify as “diverse” in official documents, this even includes passports. In fact, legal action could be taken against you in the German market if you ignore this fact and don’t state “male/female/diverse” or “m/f/d” on your website’s job vacancies or on job portals in Germany.

Strategies for gender-inclusive, accessible language

Avoid the generic masculine form of terms

Words like "mankind" or "he" are often used to refer to all people in the English language, regardless of their gender. However, this can be alienating and exclusionary to people who do not identify as male. 

There are a few reasons why using the generic masculine form of terms can be problematic. First, it can reinforce the idea that men are the default gender. This can make people who do not identify as male feel invisible or excluded. Using more general terms can erase the experiences of (perceived) minorities.  

To overcome this, try using more gender-neutral terms, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind." You can also use plural forms instead of singular forms, such as "people" instead of "man" and "they" instead of "he."  

Use inclusive relationship descriptors 

The English language mostly uses gendered terms to describe relationships. For example, the words "husband" and "wife" are often used to refer to a male and female partner, respectively. However, this can be alienating and exclusionary to people who do not identify as male or female, or who are in relationships that do not fit the traditional husband-wife model. 

There are a few reasons why using inclusive descriptors is important. First, it can help to break down gender stereotypes. Second, it can make people feel more included and welcome. Third, it can help to create a more accurate representation of the diversity of relationships in the world. 

Try using more gender-neutral terms, such as "partner" instead of "husband" or "wife." Use plural forms instead of singular forms, such as "partners" instead of "husband and wife" and consider the use of gender-neutral pronouns, such as "they" and "them," when referring to people in relationships whose gender you do not know or do not want to specify. 

Avoid assuming anything 

Gender identity is a person's internal sense of being male, female, neither, both, or somewhere along the gender spectrum. It is important to avoid assuming someone's gender identity, as this can be disrespectful and alienating. 

It is also important to note that not everybody will like your use of inclusive language, also. Include your social media team when starting to use more inclusive language. Have them prepare answers on hateful comments or aggressions they might get from more orthodox people.  

Another thing to definitively avoid is “pride washing”. This term describes the effect when a company uses, e.g., the months of June, aka “Pride Month”, to actively promote products, services, merchandise, or even its brand coloured in Pride/Rainbow Colours, but instantly stops all these activities, once Pride Month is over. Remember you are setting a good example with inclusiveness and not “surfing the wave” because others are doing so!  

Lastly, you need to be aware that many European countries have adopted legislation for inclusiveness. This includes not only opening marriage for non-heterosexual relationships but also the possibility to have their own gender identity visible in official documents. In Germany, for example, job offerings must not only include “male/female” but also “diverse”. Hence you will see a lot of “(m/f/d)” after any position title in job offerings. 

Gender-inclusiveness, accessibility, and Google

At this time, Google hasn't yet rated web pages differently if they're written in a gender-inclusive manner, or not. However, as more and more of your competitors are adopting gender-sensitive language, it may make a difference in the long term. Furthermore, Google uses gender-inclusive language not only internally, but also encourages users of Google Docs to do so at present.

Inclusion in language is also a matter of accessibility. If your website is easy to use for everyone, this can lead to a smooth user experience and increased success through word-of-mouth. These are metrics that Google extensively uses today to determine a page's rankings. Also, keep in mind that Gen Z is more sensitive to gender equality and inclusion and supports brands that represent what they believe in.

5 Tips on gender-inclusive content authoring 

Remember that the guidelines for your corporate communications apply internally and externally and should be identical. If there are differences, misunderstandings can quickly arise and the uniformity of external communication, for example, can suffer as a result.

1. Gender-neutral terms 
  • Instead of saying "fireman," say "firefighter." 

  • Instead of saying "policeman," say "police officer." 

  • Instead of saying "salesman," say "salesperson." 

  • Instead of saying "waitress," say "server." 

2. Inclusive relationship descriptors 
  • Instead of saying "husband" and "wife," say "partner." 

  • Instead of saying "mother" and "father," say "parent." 

  • Instead of saying "son" and "daughter," say "child." 

  • Instead of saying "brother" and "sister," say "sibling." 

  • know their preferred pronouns. 

3. Examples for sensitive use of pronouns
  • If someone tells you that their pronouns are "he/him, she/her, they/them,” use those pronouns when referring to them. 

  • Accept the fact, that while some people might “look” like a certain gender, they might not identify with those gender roles or carry a specific “gender look” only to avoid difficult situations in daily life. 

  • In writing, generally prefer the singular “they/them” to be inclusive. 

4. Never assume anything 
  • Instead of asking, "Are you a male or a female?" ask, "What are your pronouns?" or "What is your gender identity?" 

  • When you are introducing someone, don't assume their gender identity. Instead, let them introduce themselves. 

  • If you need to address individuals of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, don’t use direct terms like “gay/lesbian/bisexual”, instead use the umbrella term “queer”. 

5. Additional inclusiveness tips:
  • Always analyse, understand, and respect your target groups!  

  • Be aware not everybody might be on the same page with you on your diversity path! Be prepared some costumers might be offended by your you use gender-inclusive language. 

  • Never “Pride Wash”! 

  • Inclusiveness needs to happen both in external as well as internal communication to be credible! Prepare inclusiveness guidelines to be distributed internally.  

  • 1. Gender-neutral terms 
  • 2. Inclusive relationship descriptors 
  • 3. Examples for sensitive use of pronouns
  • 4. Never assume anything 
  • 5. Additional inclusiveness tips:

Gender-appropriate corporate language with diva-e

The introduction of gender-inclusive language poses challenges in many places. We are happy to provide you with expert guidance and implementation assistance, such as reformulation of existing website content, guidance on inclusive SEO keyword analysis, and the creation of custom-tailored communication guidelines. Get in touch with us – we look forward to hearing from you.

Our services for inclusive corporate communication

Gender inclusive communication workshops

We conduct gender inclusive communication workshops both remotely and on site.

Rewrites of existing content

We assist in rewriting your online content as quickly as possible.

Corporate communication guidelines

We create corporate communication guidelines for a successful, inclusive corporate language that drives traffic to your site and boosts conversions.

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