Communicating with Gender Fair Language in the Workplace

Communication, like technology, evolves through time with the society. The best communication can promote understanding, build and maintain relationships, reflects culture, and affects socialization in a positive manner. The worst can do the opposite – it can spread discord, fake information, and even foster discrimination.

In a recent Manila Times article entitled, ‘Babae kasi’: Insights on why women are from Mars too, the author wrote that gender stereotypes remain prevalent. Gender inclusivity, in the ways of speaking and writing, should not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender, or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.

At SM, we work hard at being an equal opportunity provider, with 63% of women in our workforce and 58% in senior leadership roles, breaking down barriers of gender biases.

Examples of conscious communication

Under the Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 12, Series of 2005 entitled “Use of Non-sexist Language in all Official Documents, Communications and Issuances,” here are some suggestions on how we can use inclusive language in the workplace:

  • Eliminate the generic use of HE, HIS, HIM, SHE, or HER, unless the antecedent is obviously male or female

By using plural nouns

Rewording, if necessary

Substituting articles (a, an, the) for his; using who instead of he

Using One, We or You

Using the passive voice

Traditional: The lawyer uses his brief to guide him.

Suggested: The lawyers use their briefs to guide them.

Traditional: The architect uses his blueprint to guide him.

Suggested: The architect uses the blueprint as a guide.

Traditional: The writer should know his readers well.

Suggested: The writer should know the readers well.

Traditional: The manager must submit his proposal today.

Suggested: The proposal must be submitted by the manager today.

  • Eliminate the generic use of Man, instead use People, Person(s), Human(s), Human Being(s), Humankind, Humanity, The Human Race

Traditional: ordinary man, mankind, the brotherhood of man

Suggested: ordinary people, humanity, the human family

  • Eliminate sexism in symbolic representations of gender in words, sentences, and text by:

Taking the context of the word, analyzing its meaning, and eliminating sexism in the concept

Traditional: feelings of brotherhood, feelings of fraternity

Suggested: feelings of kinship, solidarity

Traditional: the founding father

Suggested: the founders, the founding leaders

Traditional: the Father of relativity theory

Suggested: the founder of relativity theory, the initiator of relativity theory

Finding precise words to delineate the thing itself from supposedly sex-linked characteristics:

Traditional: Titanic was a great ship, but she rests at the bottom of the sea.

Suggested: Titanic was a great ship, but it now rests at the bottom of the sea.

Traditional: “In all things of Mother Nature, there is something of the marvelous…”

Suggested: “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous…”

Traditional: You can’t stop Father Time.

Suggested: You can’t stop time.

  • Eliminate Sexual Stereotyping of Roles

Using the same term for both genders when it comes to profession or employment

Using gender fair terms in lexical terms

Treating men and women in a parallel manner

Avoiding language that reinforces stereotyping images

Avoiding language that catches attention to the sex role of men and women

Traditional: Salesman, Stewardess

Suggested: Sales agent, Flight attendant

Traditional: Sportsmanship

Suggested: Highest ideals of fair play

Traditional: I now pronounce you man and wife.

Suggested: I now pronounce you husband and wife.

Traditional: a man’s job, the director’s girl Friday

Suggested: a big job, the director’s assistant

Traditional: working mothers, spinsters or old maids

Suggested: wage-earning mothers, unmarried women

Traditional: busboys, chauvinist pigs

Suggested: waiter’s assistants, male chauvinists

  • Eliminate sexism when addressing persons formally by:

Using Ms. instead of Mrs.

Using a married woman’s first name instead of her husband’s

Using the corresponding titles for females

Using the title of the job or group in letters to unknown persons

Traditional: Mrs. Dela Cruz

Suggested: Ms. dela Cruz

Traditional: Mrs. Juan dela Cruz

Suggested: Ms. Maria Santos-dela Cruz

Traditional: Dra. Concepcion Reyes

Suggested: Dr. Concepcion Reyes

Traditional: Dear Sir

Suggested: Dear Editor, Dear Credit Manager, Dear Colleagues

Promoting gender-fair language at the workplace and adapting it not only in our cubicle but taking it in our respective homes, not only promotes inclusivity, but a greater understanding and awareness of our community. It’s the first step towards sparking the change we wish to see in the world.

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