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Inclusive Language: The Business Advantage.



Significant research has highlighted a positive correlation between diversity and business performance. A 2019 McKinsey report, for instance, found that companies in the top quartile for diversity were 35% more likely to outperform in profitability. (Source: McKinsey & Company - Delivering through Diversity) The quest for top talent has never been more critical in today's globalised market. Yet, are we inadvertently limiting our talent pool by using exclusionary language? Inclusive language isn't just a matter of courtesy; it's a strategic advantage that can propel businesses forward in the race for innovation and success.


Diversity of Thought:

  • Gender-neutral language fosters a more inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing ideas. This diversity of thought fuels innovation and problem-solving. Studies have shown that teams with a broader range of perspectives outperform homogenous ones.

  • Imagine a brainstorming session where everyone contributes the same ideas. While efficient, it might lack groundbreaking solutions. Inclusive language fosters an environment like a diverse ecosystem. Just as various plants create a more resilient and productive habitat, a team with multiple perspectives leads to a broader range of ideas and, ultimately, more robust solutions.


A Wider Talent Pool:

  • Using gender-neutral language in job descriptions and outreach materials, you attract more qualified candidates from a larger pool of candidates, including women and non-binary individuals who might be discouraged by traditionally phrased job postings.

  • When crafting job descriptions, consider using gender-neutral terms such as 'candidates' instead of 'applicants' and 'team members' instead of 'employees.' Additionally, avoid using gendered language in requirements or qualifications. Instead of seeking a 'salesman,' specify that you're looking for a 'sales professional' to attract a broader range of qualified candidates.


Brand Reputation:

  • Consumers are increasingly conscious of company values. Inclusive language demonstrates a commitment to diversity and equity, enhancing your employer brand and attracting top talent seeking a progressive workplace.

  • A 2020 McKinsey report highlights the growing importance of diversity and inclusion for fashion brands, impacting not just consumer perception but also attracting top talent. Similarly, Apple's longstanding commitment to inclusivity, reflected in their marketing campaigns, contributes to a strong employer brand that likely resonates with diverse job seekers seeking workplaces that value these principles.


Everyday Shifts for Big Impact:

In our journey toward more inclusive language, we must consider practical steps that reflect individuals' diverse identities and experiences. Here are some tangible adjustments we can make in our everyday language:


  • Don't Assume:

    • Recognise that each person's gender identity is unique and multifaceted. Avoid making assumptions about someone's gender identity, pronouns, or perception of gender. Instead, listen actively to how individuals refer to themselves and follow their lead.

    • Refer to the Gender Unicorn model (https://transstudent.org/gender/) to understand the complexity of gender identity, genitalia, sexuality, and societal presentation. This model illustrates the diversity of experiences and identities within our communities.

  • It's Complex:

    • Understand that gender identity is just one aspect of a person's identity, and it can be complex and multifaceted. While there are numerous gender identities and sexualities, the focus should be on respecting individuals and referring to them in the manner they choose.


  • Ask:

    • When in doubt, ask individuals how they refer to themselves. Respect their preferences for pronouns and gender-related language. Some individuals may not use traditional gender indicators, and honouring their choices is essential.

    • Consider implementing tools such as pronoun badges or online platforms allowing individuals to specify their pronouns. These tools can facilitate respectful communication and create a more inclusive environment.


  • Making a Mistake:

    • If you make a mistake in referring to someone, acknowledge it without explanation, own the mistake, pledge to do better, and then follow through by using the correct language in the future. For example, apologise sincerely and commit to using the correct pronouns and gender-neutral language moving forward.


  • Common Term Gendered Term Non-Binary Replacement:

    • Consider replacing gendered terms with non-binary alternatives to create more inclusive language. For instance:

      • Man: Person

      • Woman: Person

      • Boy: Child

      • Girl: Child

      • Husband: Partner

      • Wife: Partner

      • Father: Parent

      • Mother: Parent

      • Son: Child

      • Daughter: Child


  • Remember, these are suggestions, and the most crucial aspect is respecting individuals' language and title preferences.


Additional Tips:

  • Avoid using gendered terms when referring to people in general. Instead of saying "policemen," use "police officers."

  • Use plural pronouns like "they" when referring to individuals whose gender is unknown or mixed.

  • Incorporate gender-neutral titles like "Mx." instead of Mr., Mrs., or Ms. whenever possible.

  • Be mindful of the language used in writing and speaking, striving for gender-neutral language whenever feasible.

  • Consider the importance of inclusive restrooms with signage that doesn't rely on gender binaries. Gender-neutral restroom options can promote inclusivity and ensure everyone feels comfortable and respected in shared spaces.


By implementing these practical adjustments in our everyday language and environments, we can create more inclusive and respectful workplaces and communities where everyone feels seen and valued for who they are.


Moving Forward:

Inclusive language isn't a destination but a journey of continuous improvement. It's about fostering open communication and a culture of respect within your organisation. Start by encouraging discussions about preferred pronouns and the benefits of using gender-neutral language.


While having a resource on non-gendered language is a significant first step, consider taking it further by offering workshops or training sessions to fully integrate inclusive language practices into your company culture.


Explore additional resources and educational opportunities to deepen your understanding and implementation of inclusive language. Attend workshops or training sessions facilitated by diversity and inclusion experts, and delve into online courses, articles, and books that offer valuable insights and guidance. By investing in education and awareness, you empower yourself and your team to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.


As explored throughout this article, inclusive language isn't just about being politically correct; it's a strategic business decision with tangible benefits. By embracing inclusive language practices, businesses can attract top talent, enhance their brand reputation, and foster a culture of belonging and respect. Let's commit to making everyday shifts in our language and behaviour to create a more inclusive and equitable world for all.


Remember: Inclusive language isn't just politically correct; it's a wise business decision that fosters a diverse, innovative, and talent-rich work environment.


 

Ready to get started? Purchase our guide on 'Guidelines for Language Use with Non-Binary & Gender Non-Conforming Persons." or contact us to arrange diversity and inclusion training sessions.


Let's keep the conversation going! Share your thoughts and experiences with inclusive language in the comments below.


Let's Amplify This Message!

Your commitment matters. Share this article widely and use #wordsmatter to connect with others who are passionate about this cause. Together, we can transform workplaces and create a more just society for everyone.


Ready to Take the Next Step?

My 25+ years of leadership and advocacy experience are available to you. Contact me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com to support your organisation's inclusivity journey.


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