How to Look For and Use Inclusive Language
Hcareers / APRIL 26 2021

Part of creating an inclusive and diverse work environment and the team is to make sure you are attracting diverse candidates and then retaining them with support and training that makes your workplace safe and happy for everyone. 

An important part of this is using inclusive language and training employees to recognize and avoid using non-inclusive or harmful language. 

Here are languages to avoid using in a job description or when communicating in the workplace. 

Gendered Language 

Gendered language is the use of words or phrases that create an assumption of gender-specific characteristics or create a bias towards one gender

Language to be aware of in job descriptions: 

  • Gender-inclusive personality traits to describe the type of candidate you want for the role; Assertive and competitive give a male connotation while supportive and warm are interpreted more feminine, avoid using this.
  • Clearly stated family-friendly benefits such as parental leave, flextime, and childcare if available.
  • Check the pronouns used; a non-gender biased job description will use either “s/he” or “you.”
  • The use of words like “chairperson” instead of “chairman or chairwoman” and “team or everyone” instead of “guys.”

When you are communicating with coworkers or guests at work, avoid doing these:

  • Pointing out someone’s gender when talking about their roles; “that female CEO” or “the male housekeeper,” making it seem weird that specific genders shouldn’t be in specific positions.
  • Using language that presumes gendered characteristics when addressing or talking about others.
  • Assigning specific tasks to gender, like only women can clean or interact with emotional coworkers or guests and only men can fix plumbing or electric problems.

Diverse Language

Make sure your job descriptions have language that will attract candidates from different, races, ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations.

Language to be aware of in job descriptions: 

  • Multiple language translations of the job description, especially depending on the location of the opening, making it more accessible to everyone.
  • Short sentences and paragraphs and bulleted lists for responsibilities, requirements, and qualifications for literacy inclusiveness.
  • Avoiding unnecessary industry jargon to attract candidates who have not gained industry experience yet.
  • Clearly stated diversity and inclusion efforts, support, and policies.

When you are communicating with coworkers or guests at work, avoid doing these:

  • Using any negative stereotype of a race or ethnicity when addressing someone or a situation
  • Shaming someone for their age by using phrases like “you’re old enough to know better” or “you’re too young to understand.” 
  • Using phrases that have racial roots or a negative connotation for sexual orientation can make someone feel uncomfortable

Ableist Language 

Ableist language is a language that favors people who don’t have a disability. It creates a derogatory, abusive, or negative connotation about disabilities. 

Language to be aware of in job descriptions:

  • Physical requirements that are not essential; “ability to sit for extended periods of time” or “must be able to lift 30 pounds” if you are applying for an office job. “Must be able to hear the telephone in a crowded area.” Although some of these are essential to specific hospitality jobs, are there workarounds possible? Or are these statements exaggerating to real environments?
  • Clearly stated Equal Employment Opportunity statements
  • Referring to people or traits as “being normal”

When you are communicating with coworkers or guests at work avoid doing these:

  • Using mental health language to describe someone or something, such as referring to emotional guests or coworkers as “crazy” or “psycho” or saying you are “OCD” if you are organized or cleaning. This can undermine the impact of someone’s experience with a mental disorder. 
  • Always referring to a disabled coworker with their disability to make it seem like it’s the most important thing about them.
  • Assuming that someone’s disabilities are visible, or saying someone’s disability is fake if it is not physically apparent.

If you witness someone using any language that causes a bias, whether in a job description for an opportunity or during a conversation around you, make sure to calmly explain to the person why they should avoid using it and how they can replace that language to help create a diverse, inclusive and safe environment for everyone.