‘Hey, guys,’ It’s Time to Take Gendered Language Out of Your Vocabulary

Greeting colleagues on a Zoom call with “Hey, guys!” or using terms like “chairman” or “congressman” to refer to occupations may seem innocuous, but experts say these types of gendered language — though usually spoken without intention to exclude or offend — still have the power to send messages that limit women and non-binary people.

With more people identifying outside of the male-female gender binary, and an increasing number of women earning higher education degrees and poised to enter the job market in the coming years, advocates believe terms that center around “maleness” are relics of the past worth phasing out. Even when accidental, these terms send detrimental subliminal messages about who belongs and who does not.

In business settings especially, this type of gendered language remains one of the key components of the male-centric culture that women and non-binary individuals are often forced to put up with. Lisa Kaplowitz, director of the Rutgers Business School Center for Women in Business ranks this type of exclusionary language as one of the main problems women working in male-dominated fields face, playing into the culture that perpetuates potentially life-altering issues such as the gender pay gap, assumptions about motherhood making women less focused on their careers and the systemic and long fight against denying leadership roles to women.

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