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DCA Targets ‘Guys’ with #WordsAtWork Campaign

Wednesday, 1st June 2016 at 3:28 pm
Wendy Williams
Diversity Council Australia is cracking down on language used in the workplace – including the word “guys”.

Wednesday, 1st June 2016
at 3:28 pm
Wendy Williams



DCA Targets ‘Guys’ with #WordsAtWork Campaign
Wednesday, 1st June 2016 at 3:28 pm

Diversity Council Australia is cracking down on language used in the workplace including the word “guys”.

The Not for Profit workplace diversity advisor has launched a new campaign to promote greater understanding of the role that language can play in workplace cultures and the benefits that can flow from more inclusive language.

DCA chair David Morrison AO, who appears in the campaign video #WordsAtWork, said language played a critical role in shaping workplace cultures.

“For some time I have been advocating that everyone in our society, from all genders, races creeds, ages, disabilities, religions or sexual orientations, be given a chance to achieve their potential,” Morrison said.

“Unfortunately, in many workplaces, this isn’t always the case. People use language to denigrate others and to take away their self-respect. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, but the effect is the same.

“DCA’s new campaign is not about being ‘politically correct’ – it is about encouraging people to use language at work which is respectful, accurate, and relevant to everyone.”


The campaign video #WordsAtWork shows a number of women frowning when they are addressed as “girls” or when men speak over them.

Other words being targeted include “feisty”,  “ball breaker” and “gay” being used in a negative fashion, to mean “lame” or “stupid”.

The video also featured an office sign saying “Clean up after yourself – your mum does not work here!” which Morrison corrects to read “your mum/dad”.

Speaking in the video Morrison said the research has told us for years how language cuts people out or cuts them down.

“All sorts of people cop it,” he said.

“Old labels that don’t do justice to who we are today.”

Mr Morrison told ABC on Wednesday he has personally stopped using the word “guys”.

“I have now removed that from my lexicon as best I can, I think it’s important,” he said.

His comments have attracted a lot of media attention and prompted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to caution against interfering with freedom of speech.

“I don’t think we should try and interfere with the freedom of speech in this country to a point where people are too concerned about day-to-day conversations,” she said.

Bishop said words such as “guys” were generic enough they should not cause offence.

According to DCA how we speak to and about each other influences how we treat each other, and this builds our workplace cultures.

DCA points to a number of studies indicating non-inclusive language contributes to and continues stereotyping, frequent non-inclusive experiences at work have just as harmful effects as more intense but less frequent experiences (eg sexual coercion and harassment) and non-inclusive jokes can lead to tolerance of hostile feelings and discrimination against people from excluded groups.

DCA, working in partnership with consulting engineers Aurecon, has developed a campaign video, series of guides and an education program for workplaces to show how inclusive language can improve workplace culture and drive productivity.

DCA CEO Lisa Annese said workplaces were struggling to find guidance on how best to encourage more inclusive language.

“Day in day out, workplace culture is created every time there is an interaction between two individuals,” Annese said.

“Language is the fabric that underpins these interactions and it can either contribute to inclusion or lead to exclusion. In these days of social media, we are surrounded by wall to wall chatter. You could say that words have never been more important.

“DCA’s new tools will help organisations build more inclusive workplaces which can result in benefits like improved productivity and profitability, greater creativity and innovation, higher employee wellbeing and engagement and reduced employee turnover, to name just a few. For employers this means very concrete bottom line financial benefits.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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  • Avatar Michael says:

    Ah, good to see we’re worried about important things like this. Absurdity reaches new depths. Good to see PBA is being kept busy.

  • Avatar Catherine says:

    Good on you David. As a teacher I struggled for years to teach my students that girls were not pmen or part of mankind then this insidious new term guys came in and hijacked all our advancments. It is bad enough dealing with it in the public afrena where I get sick of the checkout workers using it but it is extremely saddening to have it being used routinely in an all girls school!

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