Rachel Solomon, CD, Honor Code Creative
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gender, sex and orientation. Which I can identify now, but once often conflated with each other. (In case you’re wondering: Gender = how you understand yourself. Sex = your anatomy. Orientation = how you relate to others.)
I hadn’t been unaware of these issues before, but they hit me more directly when I joined MavenMinds, a group for entrepreneurial women (more on that in a sec) to help us grow our businesses together.
I love the energy of this group, and I love the idea of networking with just us, in particular after an incident where someone I thought I was having a work coffee with thought it was a date. I became part of the MavenMinds leadership committee, and one of my first jobs was to write copy for the site. I suddenly wondered, do I really want to say we’re a group just for women?
I’d start to think about this, too, when I developed Honor Code Creative’s instagram channel. There are others out there who talk about being “by and for women.” But somehow this didn’t feel right to me. What about other people who identify as women, or who are non binary but maybe perceived as women. Don’t they share some of the same struggles that make MavenMinds just right for me? And aren’t they just as entitled as anyone else to what Honor Code provides? We are by and for businesses and leaders who act honorably and want to be disrupt the status quo. It feels important to get the words right.
I met Caroline Murphy at MavenMinds. They are a game designer, producer, and community organizer and co-founder/CEO of BostonFIG, a non-profit dedicated to cultivating the next generation of game creators. (They are also genderqueer.) Caroline helped me come up with this MavenMinds site language: “We exist to connect and support women (and those who identify as women and/or nonbinary gender identities) of all backgrounds and ages to realize their entrepreneurial dreams and make a positive impact on the world.”
“Inclusive language is people-first language; it’s the ethical responsibility of allies,” Caroline said, when they recently spoke to the Mavens on this topic. That means using gender neutral pronouns, like “they, them.” (I love this primer by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston on gender neutral prounouns in business writing.)
Things change, and so too must our language. It’s hard to get used to the singular “they.” But “it’s hard to get used to” isn’t the answer. Not when so much is at stake. Language is powerful. Addressing someone in the right way is affirming. It feels dated not to. It’s hurtful not to. And even if you don’t care at all (which we assume isn’t the case), if you’re vying for candidates or customers, why risk it?
There are lots of business situations where these issues are relevant, so Honor Code has begun offering an hour-long business curriculum on the topic called Because, People. We think every workplace should get to hear Caroline and have the transformative experience we did. Because this is the way the world is moving (thankfully). And because, people.