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The College of Animal Welfare

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Gender inclusive language – Embedding a Culture of Diversity

At The College of Animal Welfare, we are fortunate to have an active and inspiring focus group called ‘Be the Change – Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity’ which is made up of staff and students who are inspiring to strengthen our drive to continually nurture togetherness and enable all without exception.  We welcome and value their thoughts and opinions and have opened the floor to them to make suggestions surrounding topics relating to equality, diversity and inclusivity. So far, the group have raised a number of interesting topics which we feel are important to bring to the forefront of our wider community’s mind. So we have put together some content for you to consider regarding gender inclusive language, to embed a culture of diversity into your day to day life.

At a time of increasing gender fluidity, if you haven’t already, now most certainly is the time to invest in proactively ensuring we are mindful of gender identity and raise awareness in a respectful, supportive way, whether it be personal to our own individual needs or that of those around us.

How to respectfully use gender neutral pronouns

There is no superior blanket term to describe the range of experiences and expectations of gender that people may have, it is personal to each individual at varying points throughout life. Our own and others around us may change our/their views of our/their gender identity over time, and it is important that we fully respect this as something personal to us/them.

However, stating your pronouns is an acceptable and positive move towards inclusivity for individuals, organisations and our wider community. It creates a healthy, safe space so everyone can be their ‘whole self’ and be respected for it. 

Using gender-inclusive language means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, nor does it assume a person’s pronoun.

Gender natural pronouns and expressions should be used as widely as possible, there are many ways to do this while respecting each other’s identity.  The most frequently used gender-neutral pronouns, in place of ‘he’ or ‘she’ are they/them/their. These are the most widely used is because these words are more familiar than alternative pronouns, making them the quickest to apply to our language in day to day life.

Gender neutral alternatives for Mr/Ms/Mrs…

‘Mx.’ is a gender-neutral honorific for people not wanting to be identified by a gender. The earliest print evidence dates back to 1977, however, the word has recently become a more popular means to address a person’s title.

“MX – a title of respect prefixed to a person’s surname: unlike Mr., Mrs., or Ms., it does not indicate gender and may be used by a person with any or no specific gender identity.”

Mx has been accepted by various local councils, universities, banks, law societies, the Royal Mail, and government services such as the NHS and HM Revenue and Customs.

How to address people using gender neutral titles in written correspondence?

In our day to day lives it is important we are mindful of pronouns in our general communications style. With digital communications being one of our main method of communications, we may speak with people without ever having met them in person and it is important not to make assumptions around their pronouns. There are a few simple swaps that can be made in the way we tackle pronouns in our correspondents to ensure we are inclusive and avoid unnecessary assumptions.

Obviously, if you know the person you are emailing’s first and last name that is the most desirable means of addressing the person in your email/letter. Avoid using titles, unless they have used them in previous communications or you are certain of their desired title. 

Avoid using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ use ‘To whom it may concern’, though this may feel a little formal it is a far more inclusive language. If you are emailing in a business capacity, if you know the department of the team you are communicating with, use this – for example ‘Dear HR department/Salesperson’.

Another top tip, it to state your own pronouns at the bottom of your email. Not only does it give the person you are in communications with a clear view of how you identify yourself, it also normalises discussions around gender. A conversation that benefits everyone. Importantly it says to everyone, I won’t assume your gender, I respect and value you as an individual.

Respecting equality and individuality by law

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:

  • age
  • gender reassignment
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • disability
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

These are called ‘protected characteristics’.

You’re protected from discrimination:

  • at work
  • in education
  • as a consumer
  • when using public services
  • when buying or renting property
  • as a member or guest of a private club or association

You’re legally protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.

Non gendered greetings

‘Hey Guys’ the phrase that has launched thousands of meetings…is it time to move away from this phrase?

Most people use the term as an easygoing way to address a mixed gender group of people, with no intention of excluding anyone. However, some interpret this as a symbol of exclusion, which we should naturally avoid at all costs. Addressing a group of people as “guys” isn’t as gender inclusive as some folks think. True, the word guys has a gender-neutral sense in of “persons of either sex; people.” But the most common and prominent meaning of the word is “a man or boy; fellow.”

For this reason, you may want to consider moving away from the word guys to offer a more balanced greeting for your guests. Here are a few alternatives for you to consider using….

  • Hey Folks
  • Hi Friends
  • Hey Everyone
  • Hello Team
  • Greetings Guests
  • Welcome Everybody

Be proud of your pronouns and open up the floor to discussions surrounding the topic with others!   

Sharing your knowledge about pronouns and discussing pronouns in your workplace are important steps in the right direction towards normalising acceptance of all identities in and out of the workplace, which is something we hope will continue! Have conversations with members of your team at your workplace, actively make suggestions to help your organisation/establishment become more inclusive. It also works in favour of maturing your professional profile by showcasing you as a person who embraces inclusivity.

Want to get involved?

We hope you find this post useful and it inspires you to take steps in the right direction towards using more gender inclusive language! If you are a student with us and have particular interests in becoming more involved in equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) please get in touch with us to find out how you can get involved at and visit our equality, diversity and inclusivity page here.

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