Language plays the most important part in shaping cultural and social attitudes, and there is no exception when it comes to your own content. Using certain language when approaching the topic of gender can help promote gender equality and avoid gender stereotypes.
As a brand, it is extremely important to include this linguistic approach to gender within your content strategy, as this will reflect your respect and inclusivity.
But, how can you write gender-neutral content?
MAIN WAYS TO ACHIEVE THIS:
Perfect your pronouns
Use gender-neutral terms/phrases
PERFECT YOUR PRONOUNS
In order to avoid any gender bias, you should avoid gendered pronouns within your content. This can be achieved by implementing any of the following options:
Avoid any pronouns at all
By taking away any pronouns in your content, there will be no room for uncertainty. Often, these can be replaced with articles such as ‘the’ or ‘a(n)’.
❌ Incorrect - use of pronouns: The interviewer can provide me with his questions tomorrow
✅ Correct - omitting of pronouns: The interviewer can provide me with (the) questions tomorrow
Use ‘they’ and ‘their’
If it is difficult to omit pronouns from your text, you can use the gender-neutral pronouns ‘they’ and ‘their’ within your content
❌ Incorrect - use of gendered pronouns: Each co-worker must present his idea
✅ Correct - use of gender-neutral pronouns: Each co-worker must present their idea
Use the passive voice
Another way you can avoid using pronouns altogether is by turning the active voice into the passive.
❌ Incorrect - use of active voice: Every manager should delegate his time correctly
✅ Correct - use of passive voice: Time should be delegated correctly by every manager
USE GENDER-NEUTRAL TERMS/PHRASES
Sometimes, it is difficult or even impossible to avoid gendered terms altogether. In these cases, it is better to use gender-neutral terms or phrases which will help fight against any gender stereotypes.
Pay attention to generalisations of groups
We often pick up expressions that do not seem to imply gender, but they do. A very common example of this is using the word ‘guys’ when identifying a group of people. You should avoid this within your content, and replace it with a term that is confirmed to be gender-neutral
❌ Incorrect - generalisation using gendered term: Hey guys! How are you?
✅ Correct - generalisation using gender-neutral term: Hey everyone! How are you?
Pay attention to job titles
Many job titles still exist where they are restricted to using one gender within their name. This prevents inclusivity and can create gender bias in certain sectors. Always use the gender-neutral version of the job title - this often can be achieved by replacing ‘man’ or ‘woman’ with ‘person’ at the end of the title.
❌ Incorrect - gendered job title: Businessman
✅ Correct - gender-neutral job title: Businessperson
There can be special circumstances in which it is impossible to avoid approaching gender, or it is integral to the context of your writing - an example of this would be an interview with a certain individual. You should never assume the preferred pronouns of an individual. If you are unsure of their preferred pronouns, you should very politely ask them at the very beginning of your interaction with them, to ensure you are respectful.
Example: If sending someone an email with questions that you want them to answer for a written interview, you should include within your introduction something like this:
“Please could you also provide me with your preferred name and pronouns, so I can ensure that I am referring to you correctly within my piece of writing?”
If you want to find out more about gender in content, you can use the following sources:
Gender-Sensitive Lexicon tool by UN Women - to clarify whether a certain term is gender-neutral
‘Gender Equality Guidelines For UNESCO Publications’ by UNESCO - to find more in-depth information with extensive examples
Content strategies created by other companies - to investigate how other brands approach gender within their work. A good place to start would be MailChimp’s content strategy