Your challenge is to look within and ask yourself, does your language reflect inclusivity?
I believe we work diligently to be inclusive. I work hard to ensure that my son feels comfortable in the kitchen and doing house chores in the same way my daughters feel comfortable doing yard work and the like. I focus on NOT saying things like “that’s what girls do” or “don’t be such a girl.” I want all of my children to learn all that they can, enjoy all that they enjoy, and be supported for who they are and who they are becoming. Period. That’s how we all love our children.
Our businesses and the people within them are similar, right? We want our employees to grow and learn, feel empowered, be successful, overcome, and take themselves to the next level. We want them to be outstanding. So how do we shape them and encourage them in the same way we are purposeful about shaping our kids, our nieces, and nephews, or how we would envision shaping younger kids given the chance?
In another great Harvard Business Review article, Noah Zandan and Lisa Shalett tackled this exact thing.
As I read it, it struck me as to how many times I had heard leaders around me say things they were recommending we avoid using.
For example, a leader that constantly says “I” is not inclusive. “I did this, I did that, I accomplished this.” No one wants to work for someone who takes credit for everything. That’s not inclusive nor does it create the team environment. That’s every person for him or herself.
Another one they mentioned was the word “manpower.” It took a lot of manpower to accomplish that.” Well, I’m not a man and many of you aren’t as well. So that’s not necessarily inclusive. I say “guys” all of the time and I have to catch myself. Guys is a term I use constantly to equal “team” or “people.” But the reality is that that term isn’t inclusive. So I have to keep working on getting that out of my leadership language.
Last but not least they mentioned an example related to age. “You’re too young to remember this.” Doesn’t that shut you down? Why would you want to keep listening if you know you aren’t going to relate to it? I think about other comments when people say “your husband or your wife” instead of saying “your partner” to be fully inclusive. Or even making assumptions about marriage status, parent status, etc. Anything that is said in a way that wouldn’t include everyone will alienate someone.
As we have talked about, when it’s your marketing strategy and you are trying to repel those customers you don’t want, that’s fine. But when you are leading a team of amazing human beings, you want everyone to feel valued, included, and a part of the team.
What words do you use that could potentially make others feel like an outsider? How will you work on adjusting that to be more inclusive?