This International Women’s Day we are using our voice to speak out on an issue that may seem minor to many, but that ultimately perpetuates inequality.
When is it appropriate to use the word girls? To describe female children. Perhaps by a group of girlfriends in referencing each other (if everyone is happy with that). But in business? We don’t think so.
As a predominately female marketing and PR consultancy, our female team members have all had experiences of being referred to as girls in a professional context. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘speak to the marketing girls’ or ‘speak to the girls on reception’? It seems, and is for the most part intended to be, innocuous, friendly even; but it is more damaging that many realise.
It undermines the professionalism of the person being described. It is patronising and suggests that the person or people being referred to are less senior or skilled.
It seems that PR and marketing is one of the professions that is particularly susceptible to this; female scientists or lawyers being collectively referred to as girls seems less likely (although it may well have happened).
So, what to say instead? If it’s not possible to use the names of the individuals, try ‘team’ or ‘colleagues’.
This article examines the issue in more depth and points to some research which highlights the very real damage this seemingly innocuous word can have when used in business. It is subtle language like this that keeps the fires of inequality burning. This International Women’s Day we are asking everyone to tune in to the language they are using and become more aware of the way it is being received.
Language matters. Somehow, International Girl’s Day would not have the same impact.