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Inclusive language: why should you care?

Language is a primary part of human connection and culture. Every day we use language systems in order to share ideas, ask questions, express feelings, teach, learn, celebrate, argue and much more. However, do we really use an inclusive language or are we influenced by unconscious bias? And, how does this affect our workplace and our communication with others? 

Elisa Montanari, Markas' Communication Manager, speaks about the importance of using a language that includes rather than excludes and how this can play a key role in creating an inclusive working environment.  

What is inclusive language?
Using inclusive language, on paper, should be a rather simple task.
Inclusive language means language that exclude words, phrases and styles that reflect biased or stereotypical behaviors towards certain groups of people, such as members of the LGBTQI+ community, ethnic and religious minorities or people with disabilities.

Inclusive language - words matter
Why then is it not so straightforward?
There are many words that people use on a daily basis that contain exclusive language without even realizing it. In fact, some commonly used expressions can discriminate against groups of people on the basis of gender, disability, socio-economic status or origin. 
Learning about the original meaning of common phrases can help us be more respectful towards our colleagues, while businesses that want to pave the way for inclusion within their culture need to work on this aspect as well. 
Words have a very important social value, so speaking respectfully in the workplace can create a more welcoming environment.

Why is it important to work on ourselves and try to be more inclusive when we communicate?
Language continuously evolves as society evolves and it can change in order to avoid discriminations and exclusion.
If until a few years ago women in certain fields were a rarity, today, it's not the case anymore so Italian words like "avvocatessa" (female lawyer in Italian) and "ingegnera" (female engineer in Italian) should be part of our daily vocabulary.
And if today, we see a large number of new words (LGBTQIA+, transgender, non-binary) or new ways that help us avoid exclusion from a gender perspective (e.g. through the use of an asterisk at the end of some Italian words or the neutral vowel schwa "
ə") it is because we need them to describe reality. 
Another area, where at times we might struggle to adopt an inclusive approach, is the language associated with professions. For years, in fact, certain jobs have been wrongly considered 'second-class', acquiring in this way nicknames that express a derogative connotation. For example, 'janitor', 'caretake' and 'cleaner' are now preferred instead of terms such as 'cleaning lady' ('bidello' or 'signora delle pulizie' in Italian).
We should think carefully about the words we choose, asking ourselves whether we use the wrong stereotypes and whether we can instead replace them with expressions that respect a more diverse spectrum of people.
Inclusive language - gender inclusivity
What are the benefits of inclusive language in the workplace?
Inclusive language in the workplace is important because it fosters a sense of belonging among employees and help them share common values.
Creating a space where employees feel valued, listened to and respected leads to an overall better work culture. That's why working on internal communication and reinforcing the importance of adopting inclusive language is vital.
Some useful principles to promote within the company could be:
- Use simple, clear and understandable sentences for everyone.
- Use language that is non-sexist, inclusive and gender-sensitive.
- Focus on the person, not on their characteristics.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions if you are not sure. 
Language is constantly changing. Therefore, it is important to keep up to date with certain terms and phrases that also change. Words can influence and shape the way people perceive reality so we can all play a part, in our own little way, in shaping a more open and inclusive society.