Lawyer Monthly - November 2022

some, language does not only reflect the way we think; it shapes the way we think. Therefore, the use of gendered terms such as ‘chairman’ can reinforce entrenched exclusion-by-design attitudes and practices. People are continually moulded by what they read, hear and listen to, and the use of gendered language has the power to uphold outdated social structures, patriarchal narratives and power imbalances. The wording of legal contracts, by outlining concepts like workplace policies, workers’ rights and contractual obligations, is a fundamental basis for setting the tone for the workplace environment. But how can legal practitioners take the lead in creating a more equitable workplace? The quest for greater employee inclusion is one constantly in motion. From introducing more equitable parental leave policies to creating a hybrid working environment that aligns with busy family lives, building more inclusive workplaces is – or should be – a vital priority for businesses around the world. But much of what influences inclusive environments comes from language, and particularly the wording of company contracts, documents and starter packs. We recently discovered that almost two thirds of legal contracts contain gendered language – a startling statistic. This is despite UK government legislation switching to gender-neutral language in 2007. Although it may seem innocuous to Why Gender-Neutral Language is Important The main issue with gendered language is that it serves to reinforce stereotypes and upholds an exclusionary environment. If a document is continually littered with male pronouns, for example, it reinforces a patriarchal mindset. It is an issue that is still currently rife within legal contracts. The latest data reveals that contracts are 88% more likely to reference ‘himself’ rather than ‘herself’ and ‘chairman’ is 250 times more likely to be referenced in contracts than ‘chairwoman’. You would think these would be crazy statistics to think about in 2022, but they are unsurprisingly prevalent. But there are, of course, also a number of other reasons to adopt gender-neutral or SPECIAL FEATURE 37

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