What we say can have a bigger impact than we realise. Our Data & Tech Recruitment Director, Leif Radford, was a speaker at the inaugural ‘Queer in Tech’ event, and his speech focussed on how language in the workplace can be used to help teams become more inclusive and diverse. Keep reading to discover his key takeaways and broaden your understanding of inclusive language.
Neurodiversity and Mental Health
In addition to heteronormativity, the use of language around neurodiversity and mental health can also be harmful. Words like "OCD," "bipolar," and "autistic" are often used colloquially to describe behaviours or emotions. However, these are clinically diagnosed conditions, not adjectives. Using them in this way trivializes the experience of people living with these conditions and contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health. Instead, we should use language that accurately reflects the experiences of people with neurodivergence and mental health conditions. This includes using person-first language, which puts the person before the condition. For example, "a person with OCD" instead of "an OCD person." It also means avoiding using clinical diagnoses as adjectives and instead describing behaviours or emotions in more neutral terms.
As a recruiter, I have seen the impact of language on the hiring process. When job descriptions use gendered or ableist language, it can discourage qualified candidates from applying. This perpetuates the lack of diversity within the tech industry and makes it more difficult to build inclusive teams. Inclusivity in the workplace goes beyond just using inclusive language. It requires a concerted effort to create an environment where all employees feel welcome and valued. This can include providing accommodations for people with disabilities, offering mental health resources and support, and actively seeking out diverse perspectives and experiences.
The power of language cannot be overstated. The words we use have the ability to create a sense of belonging or exclusion within our communities. To build more inclusive workplaces, we must start by examining the language we use and its impact on those around us. By using inclusive language and creating a welcoming environment for all employees, we can build stronger, more diverse, and more innovative teams.
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