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How to Make Your Organization’s Language More Inclusive

Everyone must feel accepted and welcome

We’ve all become increasingly aware of the importance of language in creating inclusive and equitable work cultures. Words matter, and many bygone words and phrases seem antiquated and even shocking today. Yet the modern-day professional vocabulary is still littered with exclusionary terms. To create a truly inclusive culture, it’s critical that you take a hard look at how people in all areas of your company are using language.

Many groups are harmed by exclusionary language. For example, gender-biased terms that favor male involvement and symbolize male dominance are common in the workplace, despite the availability of gender-neutral alternatives. Consider that a board chair is typically identified as a chairman when “chair” would suffice, and that people often make unnecessary distinctions such as “lady boss” instead of just “manager” or “boss.”

Our language can also exclude many other groups of workers. Until very recently, few would have raised an eyebrow if “blacklisted” was used to describe a rejection while “whitelisted” was used to describe approval. In a world where people are described as Black or White based on their skin tone, a consistent negative association with the word “black” can act as an unconscious signal that disadvantages Black colleagues. People with mental health challenges also face an uphill battle in addressing the negative connotations of misused descriptors like “mental,” “crazy,” “OCD” and “psycho” in casual conversation. And colleagues who aren’t “digital natives” are left to battle assumptions that they’re not tech-savvy and language that disparages their technological adaptability, such as “dino,” “senior moment” and “silver surfer.”

Please select this link to read the complete article from Harvard Business Review.

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