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Discriminatory language is often found in the workplace, even if it’s used unconsciously. Here are 5 best practices we found to avoid using discriminatory words in your job descriptions, during interviews, and more:

1. Use people-first language

Using people-first language is one way to avoid derogatory language in job descriptions. What is people-first language? This is how the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) defines it:

“People-first language emphasizes the individuality, equality and dignity of people with disabilities. Rather than defining people primarily by their disability, people-first language conveys respect by emphasizing the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost just that—people.”

People-first language is not only related to disabilities, but also race, gender, age, or ethnicity. Some examples of people-first language include:

  • “person of color” vs. “colored”
  • “person with a disability” vs. “the disabled”
  • “Black people” vs. “blacks”
  • “homeless people” vs. “the homeless”
  • “person in a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user” vs. “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair”
  • “older people” vs. “the elderly”
  • “transgender people” vs. “transgenders”
  • “person of indigenous descent” vs. “part-Indian”

It’s best practice to use people-first language unless a person indicates another preference.

 

2. Avoid gender assumptions

Avoiding gender assumptions is another way to remove gender discriminatory words from your job descriptions. Collegian’s Inclusive Language Guide says it is best practice to:

“Never assume a person’s gender identity based on their name or their appearance – if you don’t know, use gender-inclusive pronouns or ask for their pronouns.”

This best practice is more related to the interview process. But removing words like “he” and “she”  or “mother” and “father” from job descriptions may help you avoid offending a potential candidate that does not identify with a specific gender, or is in a relationship where their kids simply call them “parents”.

This leads into the next best practice, using gender inclusive language.

 

3. Use gender-inclusive language

Using gender inclusive language when speaking about groups of people can help avoid discriminating against certain groups. If you do not know the pronouns people prefer, it may be best to use the following in your job descriptions:

  • they/them/theirs” vs. “he/him/his” and “she/her/hers”
  • “everyone” or “people” vs. “ladies and gentlemen”

Other examples that can be used when writing job descriptions or just in general are:

  • “staff hours” vs. “man-hours”
  • “parenthood leave” vs. “maternity/paternity leave”
  • “spouses/partners” vs. “husbands” and “wives”

 

4. Use an augmented writing tool

Using augmented writing tools can help solve the problems listed above. Augmented writing tools are important for job descriptions because they notice things like:

  • Gender bias — 94% of employers lean masculine.
  • Exclusionary words — You might be using politically incorrect or discriminatory words.
  • Age bias — Did you know you can sued if you use language suggesting you want a young candidate (“digital native”, “recent grad”, “youthful energy”, etc.?)
  • Unconscious bias — Remember, most bias is inadvertent (unconscious)…but the outcome is still poor if you have it.

Ongig’s Text Analyzer helps improve writing by highlighting discriminatory language and suggesting better words. Here are a few examples:

discriminatory language he/she

 

discriminatory language blacklisting

 

discriminatory words recent graduate

 

5. Create a “discriminatory language in the workplace policy”

Another best practice to create an “inappropriate language in the workplace policy” or “discriminatory language in the workplace policy“. This type of policy not only covers words used in job descriptions but prohibits the use of discriminatory language, labeling, name-calling, and other related behaviors across an organization.

Having policies in place to stop discrimination and the use of inappropriate language in the workplace help keep employees accountable for the language they use. Ongig’s Diversity Glossary and style guides like A Progressive’s Style Guide pictured below can also help steer you in the right direction when it comes to using more inclusive language.

 

remove derogatory language style guide

 

WHY I WROTE THIS

Ongig’s mission is to transform your job descriptions to attract top-tier and diverse talent. Our Text Analyzer software analyzes every word of your job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive to everyone and avoid discriminatory language.

 

Shout-outs

  1. Inclusive Language Guide (by collegian.com)
  2. People First Language (by EARN)
  3. Preventing Racial and Other Offensive Slurs In The Workplace (by Dr. John Sullivan)
  4. A Progressive’s Style Guide (by Hanna Thomas and Anna Hirsch)
  5. Out with “the old,” elderly, and aged (by Marianne Falconer and Desmond O’Neill)

by in Diversity and Inclusion