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The power of language in fostering diversity in trades

The power of language in fostering diversity in trades

In the ongoing journey to gender equality, and the attraction of diverse cohorts into trades and trades-based roles, one influential yet often overlooked tool is language. Empowered Women in Trades is putting a spotlight on the power of language in transforming trades-based industries.

By Hannah Keirl, Head of Commercial at Empowered Women in Trades.

The impact of language on the inclusivity of women, non-binary, LGBTQI+, cultural and linguistic diversity, and other diverse groups of people in trades-based industries cannot be overstated. Language plays a key role in fostering a culture of respect, collaboration and empowerment.

Language might seem like a minor player in the realm of inclusivity, but its effects ripple throughout an organisation. In fact, it can have an impact before one is even employed. Let’s take job listings as an example. Traditionally, they’ve been riddled with gendered language that subconsciously discourages women and non-binary people from applying. By adopting gender-neutral language, companies signal their commitment to a diverse workforce, encouraging more women and non-binary people to pursue careers in these industries.

For example, a construction company that previously advertised for a “tradesman” now seeks a “tradesperson”. This simple shift in language opens the door for a wider pool of applicants and brings new perspectives and skills into the industry. It’s regularly forgotten to check the body of the job advertisement’s copy; where you often find an ad for “apprentice carpenter”, then in the description there is reference to “reporting to the site foreman…” or “…assisting other tradesmen”.

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Language also plays a pivotal role in fostering a culture of respect on worksites. When communication is respectful and inclusive, it sets a standard for behaviour and interaction. This, in turn, leads to better teamwork and a more positive work environment. For instance, instead of using derogatory slang to describe female colleagues, and workers in trades and trades-based industries, people can choose to use respectful and gender-neutral language, creating a culture where all individuals are valued for their skills and contributions rather than their gender. Let us start simple. Addressing your crew at pre-start as “team” rather than “guys” or singling out the “ladies” can go a long way.

Let’s turn to safety culture. In industries like construction or manufacturing, safety is paramount. When everyone on a worksite feels valued and heard, they are more likely to speak up about safety concerns without fear of retribution. This open communication can prevent accidents and save lives. Inclusivity, driven by language, creates safer worksites.

Beyond the worksite, language can work towards the transformation of the perception of women and non-binary people in trades and trades-based industries. Encouraging stories and language that highlight successful women and non-binary people in these fields can inspire the next generation. When young people hear stories of all genders thriving in construction, engineering or civil, they are more likely to pursue these careers themselves, bridging the gender gap from the ground up.

The impact of language isn’t limited to job descriptions and worksite interactions; it extends to company policies and initiatives. Gender-neutral policies for parental leave, flexible work hours and mentorship programs can make it easier for women to navigate trades and trades-based industries. Allowing men to have these same opportunities helps to bridge the gap. Language used in these policies signals that the company values work-life balance and career growth for all employees, irrespective of gender.

The power of language to create a better culture on worksites, across teams and throughout industry attraction and retention programs is an important pillar of diversity and inclusion.

When in doubt, just remember – jobs don’t have genders.

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