The United Nations (UN) has released a reminder list of gender-neutral words to replace commonly used expressions in the English language.
The words should be used when someone is referring to a group or when they are unsure of a person’s gender, the UN states. This will help prevent a particular sex, social gender or gender identity from being discriminated against.
Changes to some traditional expressions will also ensure society is no longer perpetuating outdated gender stereotypes and will promote gender equality, the organisation added.
Top of the list is changing the word ‘mankind’ to ‘humankind’, while someone who presides over a meeting will be the ‘chair’ instead of the ‘chairman’.
Landlords should be referred to as ‘owners’ instead and a person’s maiden name can be described as their ‘family name’.
Also on the list are the words boyfriend and girlfriend, which could be swapped out for the ‘partner’, while ‘spouse’ can be used instead of husband or wife.
A congressman should also be referred to as a ‘legislator’, and the word manpower is traded out for ‘workforce’, while anyone working in sales is a ‘sales person’.
The UN’s guidelines also include a list of gender-biased expressions to avoid, such as ‘she throws like a girl’, ‘in a manly way’ or ‘that’s women’s work’.
Anyone concerned as to whether they are using discriminatory language should reverse the gender in the sentence and see if it makes the expression sound ‘odd’, the guidance suggests.
People are also encouraged to pay more attention to the pronouns and ensure they check whether it is necessary to make ‘gender visible’ through communication. This could mean either saying ‘he or she’ or ‘they’ where appropriate when referring to a group.
The guidelines were developed by a series of inter-agency working groups as part of a project called ‘Supporting gender equality in multilingual contexts’. It is part of the UN’s strategy for gender parity and creating a ‘a working environment that embraces equality, eradicates bias and is inclusive for all staff’.
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