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Gender-inclusive language

Gender-inclusive language is more welcoming to your users and promotes gender equality. Do not reference gender unless absolutely necessary.

About gender identity

Gender identity refers to a sense of self, regardless of what sex a person was assigned at birth. Not everyone falls neatly into binary male or female categories.

Non-binary is an umbrella term for gender identities that are neither male or female.

Language influences how we think

When using gender pronouns and referring to gender identity consider that:

  • your users are a diverse group of people from across the gender spectrum
  • labelling people as male or female can reinforce outdated stereotypes and influence how men and women are perceived.
  • gender-exclusive language — for example ‘man-made’, can alienate people who do not identify as men.

Tips

  • Use gender-neutral pronouns (they, them) by default — especially if you’re writing about a hypothetical person or do not know a person’s pronoun.
  • Respect a person’s pronouns when referring to them.
  • Do not ask your users for their title or gender unless absolutely necessary.
  • If you do require users to indicate their title or gender, make provision for multiple options, including gender-neutral options. Allow users to select more than 1 option.
  • Avoid words that are gender exclusive — for example use ‘firefighter’ not ‘fireman’.

Examples of gender-neutral language

  • they, them or their — not he, she
  • spouse or partner — not husband, wife
  • parent — not mother, father
  • different sex — not opposite sex
  • businessperson — not businessman, businesswoman
  • police officer — not policeman, policewoman
  • chair — not chairman, chairwoman
  • machine-made, artificial, synthetic — not man-made

Resources

WeCount 2019 report, Identity and pronouns — Public Service Commission

Reviewing the statistical standards for sex and gender — Stats NZ

Prism report — Human Rights Commission

Pronoun use in email signatures — Public Service Commission

Community report — Counting Ourselves

Avoid referencing gender unless it’s absolutely relevant — Content Design London

Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion — UX Collective

How to use gender neutral language and why it’s important to try — Forbes

Gender — World Health Organisation

Utility links and page information

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