There was a time when promoting inclusivity as a business (both internally and externally) was something business leaders could choose whether or not to do. Those days are gone.
As we’ve explained in an earlier blog, very soon inclusive language will just become language. Social networks like Instagram are building for it, activists are mainstreaming it and even education decision-makers are baking it into curricula. If there ever was a do-or-die moment for businesses to catch on, it was yesterday.
Integrating inclusive language into your business communications and marketing isn’t a corporate social responsibility exercise. It’s the price of doing business in the 21st century. Inclusive language shows that your business is interested in foregrounding a variety of perspectives and experiences while being respectful of everyone’s differences.
Here are five insights to highlight the value of prioritising inclusive language for your employees and customers.
1. Millennials want employers that understand them
To millennials, inclusion no longer just means demographics (age, gender, and race) – they expect that as a standard. They’re now calling for meaningful inclusion that encompasses diversity of thought, values and philosophies, according to studies by Deloitte.
This means the way your business talks to and about them has to be inclusive as well. Language has the power to make millennials finally feel understood in a job market that was all too comfortable mocking them not too long ago. Now, millennials make up a sizeable portion of the workforce and they can finally have influence.
If your business isn’t willing to treat all identities as equal and worthy of dignity through inclusive business language, you might lose top talent.
2. Gen Z wants to support inclusive brands
Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) might not have the same spending power as millennials, but they have a massive influence on the zeitgeist. Their worldview has largely been shaped by the economic crash of 2008, the Covid-19 epidemic and climate change. As such, they have a mistrust of corporations and value authentic social causes.
Brands like Doritos (in the US) understand this and have radically overhauled their messaging to be more inclusive and targeted at Gen Z. Dortitos’s latest Rainbow flavour campaign leveraged TikTok as a way to connect with younger consumers and celebrate the diversity of LGBTQI+ individuals. The #LiveYourFreedom hashtag generated 1.05 billion video views, according to a TikTok case study.
3. Minorities are leaving microaggressive workplaces
The tech industry in the US is experiencing a brain drain of women, Black people and Hispanics who are in toxic work environments, concluded one study by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll. The study revealed that 80% of “tech leavers” quit their jobs due to sexual harassment, gender discrimination, bullying and racial bias. This is in spite of the fact that Silicon Valley has increased its diverse hiring over the past decade.
So, while tech companies have diverse teams, they haven’t tried to engage with their employees in an inclusive way. Language is a huge driver for culture, and when used intelligently, it can help redress some of the toxicity found in workplaces.
4. Women are rejecting gender-coded job specs
For the last 50 years, we’ve seen the working world go from having separate job sections for men and women to dropping gendered job titles like salesman and laundress. Now, we use gender-neutral titles, which has gone a long way towards reducing the negative stereotypes associated with women in the workplace. However, subtle gender coding still remains in some job descriptions and hiring specs.
Employers can signal the preferred gender for the role by using masculine coded words like “adventurous”, “ambitious”, “courageous”, “fearless” and “competitive” or feminine coded words like “compassion”, “empathy”, “nurturing”, “honest” and “sensitivity”. A study by the American Psychological Association highlighted that women are deterred by gendered bias in job advertisements and this can have a direct impact on gender inequality in the workplace.
5. Your competition is catching up
The most compelling reason for joining the inclusive language revolution is that it is essential for future revenue, and other brands are already proving this. Brands such as Axe, ThirdLove, Bumble and Microsoft have all launched recent campaigns that celebrate the diversity of their customer bases. They are case studies for why a change in the right direction can invite new customers and breathe new life into a brand’s story. If your business plans to stay competitive, inclusive language and marketing are non-negotiable.
Download our starter guide for inclusive language in marketing below to begin your journey towards more universally welcoming messaging.