Inclusive language has slowly but steadily gained traction as more social justice activists are realizing that everything down to language choices can have an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in the corporate world. In a nutshell, Inclusive language is the intentional choice of language that promotes inclusivity and is respectful of different culture, histories, and experiences. For a more in depth explanation of what Inclusive Language is, check out this piece.
Because language is a backbone of society worldwide, inclusive language needs to exist everywhere language is used, but especially in the corporate world. Corporations have the ability to change or shift the thinking of millions of people with their marketing, corporate policies, services, and in any simple way they interact with people. While Inclusive Language is always changing and growing, some companies have made incredible recent strides to incorporate more inclusive language, whether it be in their work, their marketing, or the services provided.
Inclusive Language Example #1: Apple
Apple, a leading company in innovation and technology, has also become a mainstream leader in Inclusive Language in tech by shifting their coding terminology guide to be more inclusive. Certain phrases that have been used in tech spaces have a history rooted in racism when you peel back the very thin layer of current and situational context. For example, with the terms “blacklist and whitelist”, associating items or things that are not allowed with the color black while associating items or objects that are favorable or allowed with the color white is incredibly problematic and undoubtedly has racist roots, whether covertly or subversively. Apple has removed these words from their products, corporate projects, coding, etc. and instead substituted these with the words “allow list” instead of “whitelist” and “deny list” instead of “blacklist”. Apple has also switched their use of the words “master and slave” as descriptors of a relationship between two devices or processes with the words “primary and secondary” to remove the usage of “master and slave” from their corporate vernacular. Apple has also switched the title of the language in this guide to explicitly call it “Inclusive Language” as opposed to its previous name “fair language”.
Example #2: Salesforce
Salesforce is another company that has done a great job with their shift to Inclusive Language. Like Apple, Salesforce has discontinued its use of blacklist/whitelist and has adopted appropriate and more inclusive substitutes. Salesforce also created a sustainable and scalable way of changing their language to become more Inclusive so that this language wasn’t just adopted in their coding, but in all aspects of their corporation. Salesforce created an advisory board for Inclusive Language made up of corporate leaders, employees, and Employee Resource Group members to ensure that Salesforce was doing as much as they could to listen and learn from the communities that they contain, named their Inclusive Product Language team. Whenever teams or employees are unsure if a language choice is exclusive, they can bring it up to this team which then reviews the language choice to determine if it is exclusive or not. When discussing language choices, the team uses four points from their Inclusive Marketing principles to guide them: Representation, Historical Context, Cultural Appropriation, and Stereotyping. After the team discusses specific language, they then give recommendations back to whoever escalated the language choice as well as appropriate leadership.
Example #3: Airlines
There has also been an uptake in the adoption of more Inclusive Language within the airline industry. Air Canada has specifically removed “ladies and gentleman” from their greetings in an effort to be more inclusive and representative of all genders. United Airlines, EasyJet, and Japan Airlines have also moved towards more gender-neutral language in their greetings. United Airlines has taken this a step further and actually changed processes within their booking channels. They now offer non-binary gender options such as Undisclosed (U) or Unspecified (X) along with the historic M and F to denote Male and Female. United Airlines has also included the prefix Mx. during booking as well as within their customer rewards program, MileagePlus.
Example #4: MasterCard
MasterCard recently rolled out a new program called True Name™ that aims for the inclusion and safety of trans and non-binary folks. With this program, people are allowed to use their chosen name on their credit cards from MasterCard as opposed to their dead name on their legal documents if they have not been able to change those. Though this may seem like a small change, it has an incredible impact on the trans and nonbinary community as another source of affirmation of their true selves. When people see their true name on the card, much of the un-comfortability of knowing that one’s dead name may not match their gender expression can be removed which can then also help increase the safety of trans and nonbinary folks. While this program may not be explicitly using Inclusive Language, it is definitely a phenomenal example of how the simplest of language choices can create a culture of inclusivity and safety for folks, which is the intent of Inclusive Language as a concept.
If you’re not sure what kind of language you can change at your company to be more inclusive, please reach out to us. In addition to our Inclusive Language Training, our EDM for DE&I can be specifically geared to have a focus on language used and we can help transform your organization down to those details.