The word "guys"
In the spirit of our recent Happy Hour theme of “Inclusive Language,” I posted the following on my company’s internal blog. So far the reception has been great, including support from my boss and the CEO. I realize this may be a scary step for some so I wanted to share my work in case anyone would like to use it as a template to do the same thing at your company.
In August 2017, I had exquisitely prepared opening remarks I gave to nearly 400 people at the PDXWIT Summer Soiree. At the end, I felt great about it. Until I heard direct feedback from Kristina King that I had used the word “guys” multiple times and it had disappointed some people. I was immediately annoyed, which turned into being defensive, and angry. Why would someone pick on me like that?! I was a good person, doing so much work for the community?! Ah!
After sitting with it for a few days, I realized how important my word choices were and that it was time I started paying attention.
Thanks to my team, I have embarked on a personal journey to remove the term “guys” from my vocabulary and I’m very, very close. Not only do I feel more thoughtful about my words, but I believe I’ve done a small part in creating a more inclusive culture on the team and in my life.
I’d like to invite all of you to remove the word “guys” from our company’s vocabulary when referring to groups of people.
Here are reasons why:
Although many of us grew up using “guys” as a generic term for a group of people, the term “guys” is defined as and associated with a “group of men.” When used, it implicitly excludes anyone who does not identify as a man.
Using inclusive terms like “friends, “folks,” “everyone” or “y’all” will help people feel included and therefore feel better about who they are and their contributions at work.
Our company has made great strides in increasing inclusivity at work (an inclusive bathroom policy, diversity-focused lunch conversations, etc.) and I’d encourage us to take this additional step in the journey to show leadership throughout Portland’s tech industry.
Working together to make changes like this requires commitment. Commitment to reminding people in a kind way and commitment to being open to receiving the feedback. I hope you’ll join me in making this change.
Thank you for considering,
Author Megan Bigelow
About Megan Bigelow: A true tech community leader, Megan is the co-founder and President of Portland Women in Tech (PDXWIT), a 501c3 nonprofit. She created and continues to lead the organization with a singular focus on empowering women and underrepresented groups to join tech, while at the same time, supporting and empowering individuals to stay in tech. This is done by connecting people to companies, mentors and skill-building opportunities. The PDXWIT community is nearly 5000 strong — representing 14% of the region’s tech workforce — and includes the support of 70+ tech companies. Above all, Megan is committed to building a diverse and inclusive tech community.