Inclusive Communication: 7 Things You Should Never Say To Women At The Workplace.


You would think that after centuries of rampant sexism and oppression of women, men and women are now equals and working together in the same workplaces, so that should mean equality, right? Well, not even close. Women are a long way from being truly equal to men, even though we are lot better off than say 100, 50, even 10 years ago.

While women have to deal with and shut down blatant sexism regularly, they also have to deal with subtle sexist communication from their peers — both men and women — especially at the workplace. One way you can be a better feminist, and work towards gender equality is to check your communication. Are you being sexist in your communication at the workplace? Here are 7 things you should never say to women at the workplace:

1. For a woman, you’re not bad at…

Ugh. What is this, the 1940s? Let us recognise that women are just as good at stuff, especially work stuff, as men are, if not better. Most people saying this phrase think they’re paying a compliment, but really it’s just an ugly way of saying that women are inferior to men generally, and that the woman you are complimenting is an exception.

What you can say instead: “Great job! You did that really well!”

2. Is it that time of the month?

Highly inappropriate! Often people insinuate that a woman is too emotional or assertive BECAUSE she is on her period, and that is offensive. What would be a respected character trait in a man — “Oh he’s such a strong leader”, “oh he’s so in touch with his emotions” — is considered a sign of being imbalanced or a sign of weakness in women.

Don’t joke about a woman being on her period or being too emotional, or blame her decisions on it. It is just not appropriate.

3. Why don’t you smile more?

This isn’t something you’d ever say to a man, so why would you say it to a woman? Has it ever occurred to you that women probably aren’t smiling because they are at work and taking their job seriously? Besides, it is not a woman’s job to make you feel at ease, so if she doesn’t smile at your comments, jokes or presence, maybe don’t ask her to. If she wants to a woman will smile.

4. Lady boss/Woman CEO

Saying it that way makes it sound as if bosses and CEOs are only supposed to be men unless indicated otherwise. Adding the gender to “boss” or “CEO” doesn’t serve any purpose other than to discriminate and to make generalisations about them. A boss or a CEO is who they are because of their skills and merit, and it has nothing to do with gender, so stop using these words.

5. Girls

You wouldn’t call your male co-workers “boys” would you? then why call your female colleagues “girls”? Calling a woman a girl is sexist and inappropriate and this kind of language can exclude and demean them. Referring to women as “girls” also infantilises them — you’re treating them like they’re less mature than everyone else. They’re adult women, not children, treat them with the respect they deserve, especially in your language.

6. Let me explain that to you

Mansplaining. Women loathe mansplainers. For those of who aren’t familiar with the term, mansplaining is the act of explaining something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, oversimplified manner, that is usually inaccurate. The term obviously arises from the act having been done repeatedly by men to women, treating them like they are intellectually inferior and almost always going “Well, actually…”. This isn’t to say that women can’t mansplain, but those cases are really rare. Just because a woman doesn’t agree with your point of view, it doesn’t mean she hasn’t understood you, so refrain from the mansplaining, and maybe ask her for her opinion.

7. Sweetie/Hun/Dear

Save these terms of endearment for your loved ones or your partner and leave them out of the workplace. Terms like sweetie, hum, honey, darling, dear and condescending, belittling, demeaning an highly degrading. Let’s not forget how utterly sexist these comments are — you wouldn’t tolerate such language towards a man at the workplace, why is it okay to talk to women like that? Keep it professional, stick to first/last names depending on your equation with the person, and don’t be a sexist pig.

Of course we could go on and on, because women face so much gender disparity and sexism in the workplace that they’re told they only got the job because they’re a woman, or are asked whom they slept with because they got a promotion, and it is exhausting! Make your communication inclusive, don’t be sexist and insensitive.

Are there any other examples of things you shouldn’t say to a woman in the workplace? Leave a comment below!



Nunchi: The Communication Consultants

A young and emerging brand of Communication Consultants, changing the way people communicate.