How to avoid gender stereotyping in workplace communications

by Amy Simpson

Gender equality is in sharp focus in industries and societies the world over. So it’s important that your workplace doesn’t get left behind. We look at how better ways of working can help eliminate gender and other stereotyping in workplace communications.

In a world of #MeToo and women’s marches, it’s no wonder people are talking about and challenging the inequalities that have plagued workplaces for so long.

There’s still lots to do before we can consider society wholly equal, but it only takes small actions to bring about a cultural change that challenges everyday prejudices in the workplace.

Create inclusive groups and teams

Encouraging inclusion will not only improve colleagues’ experience of the workplace, but also the quality of their work. And it’s something employees know is effective – 86% of Gen Y say that diverse teamwork allows teams to excel.

Encourage collaboration between a wide range of people and give them exposure to different opinions

Inclusion doesn’t mean implementing a classroom-style seating plan. But it does involve making sure that lines of communication are open and active between every member of your team, no matter their gender, ethnicity, age or religious beliefs.

A simple way of doing this is encouraging collaboration between a wide range of team members on projects and making sure people get exposure to different opinions. Try to include a wide variety of people in teams and Workplace groups – that way you’ll start to reap the rewards that diverse perspectives can bring.

Look at language

Encouraging good relationships between colleagues isn’t where the efforts stop. Another hurdle is to use inclusive language for a better working environment.

Language and gender have been tightly intertwined for decades, with gender-propelled terms like “gentleman’s agreement”, “middleman” and “drama queen” the result.

Managers can lead the cultural transformation by not using stereotypes and challenging others when they do

And these ties between language and gender are difficult to unpick. People can find themselves using these terms unconsciously for years so it’s really important to be aware of the negative connotations that this language carries

Managers can lead the cultural transformation. Not using stereotypes and challenging when others do. You can also discourage generalization of groups, like “the lads” or “the ladies” when using communication platforms like Workplace.

Also look at the language of more formal communications. For example, are your courtesy titles and salutations inclusive and gender neutral?

Words aren’t the only way you can challenge gender stereotypes. When it comes to using emojis, each one comes in both female and male form, and “me-mojis”, or faces, come in a range of skin tones to encourage inclusion.

Give – and get – helpful feedback

It’s important, too, to modify the way managers interact with employees. During reviews, for example, managers should deliver clear, concise and directed feedback to male and female employees alike.

Research shows that during women employees’ review meetings, communal language is likely to dominate, meaning discussions based on the warmth of character, support of the team, and willingness to help.

Providing individuals with direct, helpful and personalized feedback avoids stereotyping and boosts employee engagement

For male workers’ reviews, however, agentic language is more common. This includes direct, skill-based feedback, focusing on goals and challenges directly related to the job.

Providing each and every employee with direct, helpful and personalized feedback avoids stereotyping as well as boosting employee engagement.

Finally, accept feedback. The only way to know if you’re making progress is by asking, so listen to what your employees have to say. A Workplace group is a great place to manage this feedback and 1:2:1 relationships with reports.

They’re private and confidential. They provide an easy to access record of your conversations. And they act as the repository for things like feedback documents, progress reports, and your ongoing reviews.

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