Gender inclusive language

Using gender inclusive language empowers individuals and enables visibility of important issues. This fact sheet provides information on how our language can be exclusionary and guidance on using gender inclusive language.

Gender exclusion in language

Language that expresses bias in favour of one sex can result in alienation and exclusion. Similarly, language that uses stereotypes, and does not adequately reflect the diverse roles, experiences and identities present in society, is exclusionary.

Examples of exclusionary language:


There are numerous expressions in English that use the masculine noun such as mankind, manmade, chairman, spokesman, manpower. Such use of language renders women and persons of diverse genders invisible. Where possible, use non-gender specific alternatives in the list below.

Instead of Use
mankind the human race, humankind, people
manmade manufactured, synthetic, machine-made, hand-crafted
chairman chair, chairperson, convenor
spokesman spokesperson, representative
manpower workforce, personnel, employees

Unnecessary gender references

Avoid unnecessary references to gender in describing occupations or roles. Women, men and persons of diverse genders occupy positions in all fields.

Instead of Use
a woman director a director
a male nurse a nurse
a female PhD student a PhD student
a female engineer an engineer

Trivialising or demeaning

Language can be used to trivialise activities of one gender or another, through expressions such as 'just a housewife/stay-at-home dad’. Similarly referring to adult women as girls, where adult men are referred to as men, is demeaning. See below some alternatives and expressions to avoid.

Instead of Use
Girls in the office Staff in the office
Guys/gals e.g. when addressing team Team, folks, people
Love, dear, sweetie
Pretty good for a girl
She thinks like a man
He played like a girl

Including diverse identities

It is important to recognise that not all people identify as male or female. ANU encourages all staff and students to practice inclusive and respectful behaviour that recognises gender diversity.

The following are some examples of how to be inclusive of diverse gender identities.

  • Personal pronouns are used every day to talk about oneself and others. The most common pronouns used are me/I/you; she/her/hers; he/him/his; they/them/theirs. People who don’t identify with the binary male/female gender categorisation may choose to use pronouns such as they/them/theirs or another non-binary pronoun. Knowing and using appropriate personal pronouns is a positive way to support and be inclusive of people you interact with.
  • Until a person identifies their pronouns, it is best using a person’s name or non-binary pronouns to ensure that you are not inadvertently misgendering a person.
  • Welcoming or addressing a group of people: A common introductory statement is ‘Welcome ladies and gentlemen’. This excludes non-binary gender identities. An alternative is to say ‘Welcome everyone’.


The following resources contain a range of additional information and guidance on using gender inclusive language.

Federal and State Government resources

Community and NGO resources (STAFF ONLY CONTENT)

International resources


The following is a selection of definitions provided as a guide for the terms used in this Factsheet. For more extensive definitions, please refer to the resources above.

Sex: The term 'sex' refers to characteristics associated with biological sex.

Gender: Gender is part of a person’s social and personal identity. A person’s gender refers to outward social markers, including their name, outward appearance, mannerisms and dress. A person’s sex and gender may not necessarily be the same. An individual’s gender may or may not correspond with their sex assigned at birth, and some people may identify as neither exclusively male nor female.

Gender identity: The term 'gender identity' refers to a person’s self-identification of their gender. Gender identity may or may not correspond with a person’s sex as assigned at birth.

Gender diversity: Many gender identities exist outside of masculine and feminine. Sex refers to a person's biological characteristics, while gender is a person's identity (who they feel they are inside) and the mix of those things can mean a person may identify as male, female, both or neither. Gender diversity includes people who identify as transgender, genderfluid, intersex, gender questioning and genderqueer people.

Gender expression: The term 'gender expression' refers to the way in which a person externally expresses their gender or how they are perceived by others.

Intersex: Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that do not fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies.

Trans: The term 'trans' is a general term for a person whose gender identity is different to the sex they were assigned at birth.

Non-binary: Non-binary gender identities are identities that cannot be described with reference to categories such as masculine/feminine. For example, people who are gender fluid, occupy more than one gender category, do not occupy a gender category, or occupy another type of gender category beyond the binary may (though will not necessarily) identify themselves as non-binary.

Misgendering: Describing or addressing someone using language that does not match how that person identifies their own gender or body.

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