There is a powerful yet subtle way to increase the inclusivity of women and minorities in your daily work. Write about them. And do it fairly.
You may not be a writer by trade, but chances are that you write something to complete your job functions. It could be an internal research report, a memo for your department, a job description or even something as seemingly simple as a form. No matter what part of your job requires you to put pen to paper (or type away on your keyboard), it’s important to consider how your writing might impact women and minorities. Stereotypes, gendered pronouns and exclusion are all ways that a writer can alienate their reader, making them feel less invested in the material and – worse – discriminated against.
Need tips for how to up your gender-inclusive writing game? Here are three ways to get started, with tons of resources to help you out:
Cite More Women
One major factor that hinders gender inclusive language is not having women in your written work at all. Failing to cite female researchers, writers and thought leaders can be just as damaging to the reader’s experience and inclusion as mentioning women in negative ways.
In fact, writers at major publications have taken a dive into their work and found some surprising gaps. Bonus: They shared their journey and results. I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories in The Atlantic and I’m Not Quoting Enough Women from The New York Times are two great examples.
Not sure where to find female experts for your own writing? Use any of these lists to find awesome women for reference and research:
- sourcelist.org for diverse experts in tech policy
- 500 Women Scientists for women offering expertise in scientific matters
- Women in Tech List for women technologists active on Twitter
- 50 Women in Climate to Follow on Twitter for climate-specific women experts
Research Best Practices for Writing
There are a ton of ways to make your writing more gender-inclusive, no matter what form your writing takes. Anything from adjectives to pronouns to even the way you format a person’s name can be a gamechanger.
Check out these study guides, cheat sheets, and articles to learn best practices for writing (or asking) about gender:
- Gender-Inclusive Language Handout from The Writing Center at UNC
- Inclusive Writing Study Guide from the University of Leicester
- Gender-Inclusive Writing for Correspondence from the Government of Canada
- Writing Women Characters as Human Beings (in fiction) from Tor.com
- Designing Forms for Gender Diversity and Inclusion by UX Collective
- How to Write Gender Questions for a Survey from Survey Gizmo
- How to Make Job Descriptions Women-Friendly from GovLoop
Use Tools for a Quick Check
Because gendered writing can vary across mediums, formats and tone, it’s always worth using your own critical eye to determine how your work is portraying women and minorities. Nevertheless, there are a few tools that you can use if you want a speedy examination of your writing for bias:
- Her Headline – A Chrome extension form UNESCO to monitor sexist and stereotypical language in media headlines
- Gender Bias Calculator – A calculator allowing you to test samples of writing for gender bias
- Textio – Software available for purchase to monitor gender use and tone in writing
Have other tips for increasing gender-inclusivity in writing? Let us know in the comment below!
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