June 20, 2022

Have you ever referred to your team as “guys” or asked an employee if their husband or wife was coming to the company party?

Even the most well-intentioned employer or manager may inadvertently use gendered words or language in the workplace. It can result in feelings of distress, alienation and discomfort, especially among non-binary employees.

Inclusive language and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices are crucial to building an inclusive and diverse workplace. One of the key steps to integrating DEI in the workplace is educating yourself and your employees on how to use gender-neutral language properly. Doing this is a massive step toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

What is Gender-Neutral Language?

According to the UN, gender-neutral language (also known as gender-inclusive language) is “writing and speaking in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.”

This means avoiding using masculine pronouns when speaking to a group of employees and assuming someone’s pronouns based on their physical appearance, name or clothing. A lack of this awareness can lead to misgendering, which is using a pronoun different from the gender with which people identify.

Categorizing people into binary categories of masculine/feminine, he/him or she/her is something many people do subconsciously. For centuries, society has assumed that there are only two sexes (male and female) and two genders (man and woman). This belief ignores other gender identities and excludes non-binary, gender non-conforming and transgender individuals.

To create a more inclusive workplace, employers or leaders should take the time to understand the various gender identities, gender expressions and differences between sex and gender.

Here are some examples of non-inclusive and inclusive terms:

Non-Inclusive Terms:

  • Hi guys, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Invite your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife to the event.
  • Best man for the job.
  • Mankind.
  • Each employee should read his performance review carefully.

Inclusive Terms:

  • Hi folks, team, everyone, customers or clients.
  • Invite your partners or spouses to the event.
  • Best person for the job.
  • Humankind.
  • Employees should read performance reviews carefully.

Take the First Steps Towards an Inclusive, Equitable and Diverse Workplace

Achēv welcomes partnerships with businesses striving to create supportive workplaces for LGBTQ2+ employees. Adding LGBTQ2+ to your DEI discussions and taking the time to understand the importance of using gender-neutral language in the workplace will empower you to take that valuable step toward equitable work environments where everyone belongs.

To learn more about how you can adopt a more inclusive workforce at your company and/or how Achēv can support your business, contact Sachin Kapoor (him/his), Manager of Corporate Partnerships, Achēv, at: skapoor@achev.ca for a quick 15-minute DEI coffee chat.

Jana Gregorio (She/Her),
Communications Assistant, Achēv


Lisa Trudel (She/Her),
Career Specialist, Achēv

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support