The crucial gender equality etiquette rules. The appropriate behaviors to avoid the most common forms of gender discrimination. Follow these rules to be inclusive and avoid offending others.
What gender equality etiquette is
Gender equality etiquette is the set of rules to be inclusive and avoid gender discrimination. Such rules include:
- How to train yourself to avoid gender discrimination.
- The inappropriate behaviors to avoid.
- How to deal with gender discrimination.
Everyone should respect gender equality etiquette to avoid discriminatory behaviors, respect others, and be inclusive.
If you experience or witness gender discrimination, follow the etiquette rules to appropriately deal with the offending party.
General gender equality etiquette principles
People tend to feel more comfortable with someone who is similar to them. Such as someone with the same gender, ethnicity, religion, and so on. Thus, when people perceive diversity, they may get uncomfortable or defensive.
Gender equality etiquette is based on three main principles:
- Help people positively perceive gender diversity and avoid prejudice.
- Ensure equal treatment.
- Avoid any behavior that can offend others based on their gender.
Gender equality etiquette rules
1) Train yourself to get comfortable with gender equality
Instead of focusing on the perceived diversity across genders, it is best to train ourselves to focus on the similarities. The things that we have in common with other people are disproportionally more than the differences. We all eat, drink, breathe, spend time with someone we love, have fun, work, expect fair compensation for our work, and so on. Gender is a factor that does not affect such similarities at all. Thus, it is not as relevant as one might think.
While there are obvious differences across genders, such differences do not affect our basic rights and values as individuals.
2) Avoid generalization based on gender
Never generalize. Personal traits and behaviors are almost always disconnected. If you see a man playing tennis, it does not mean that all men play tennis. Or that playing tennis is a typical male activity.
3) Adopt an inclusive and gender-neutral language
Never refer to someone by their physical traits, body parts, or gender. Similarly, avoid any term that can be perceived as derogatory based on gender.
When you refer to a generic role or person, use gender-neutral pronouns. For example:
- We are voting for a new president.
Hewill have to deal with the trade deficit. [Inappropriate]
- We are voting for a new president. He/She will have to deal with the trade deficit. [Appropriate]
- We are voting for a new president. They will have to deal with the trade deficit. [Appropriate]
The first sentence is inappropriate, as it suggests a preference for a male candidate. The other two sentences are appropriate, as they imply equality.
Be aware that some people identify themselves as non-binary. This means they do not identify themselves as belonging to one specific gender. Refer to them with gender-neutral pronouns, such as “it” or “they”.
4) Challenge your own prejudice toward genders
Prejudice leads to racism and discrimination. Thus, to avoid gender discrimination, we need to fight our own prejudices.
Train yourself to challenge your own prejudice. Ask yourself whether your opinion about someone is based on your experience or on what other people say. It is best to base our opinions on our own first-hand experience. We cannot rely solely on what others may say or may have experienced, as they might be biased.
Similarly, ask yourself whether your opinion about someone would change if the person was of another gender. Are there objective facts that informed your opinion? Or is your opinion based mostly on perceived factors?
5) Avoid sensitive topics
Avoid conversation topics that can be controversial, too personal, or at risk of misinterpretation. People that have experienced significant discrimination based on their gender may be particularly sensitive to some topics. Politics, religion, or history may be inappropriate, as they depend largely on personal preferences and interpretations.
It is most appropriate to make small talk to get to know other people. Small talk help build rapport, understand boundaries, and avoid venturing into conversation topics that may be sensitive.
6) Be tolerant of gender equality mistakes
Discrimination based on gender is wrong and it should be prevented. However, it is the best etiquette to avoid confrontation. Instead, when possible, choose tolerance and dialogue.
People are generally good and want to be good. Gender discrimination often comes from a lack of education about equality or exposure to diversity. Thus, the best cure against gender discrimination is to patiently educate people and expose them to diversity in a non-threatening way.
When someone makes an offensive remark, do not confront them. Instead, patiently make them aware that their remark or behavior can be offensive to you. Briefly explain your reasons.
Try your best to not sound judgemental or self-righteous. Instead, consider yourself privileged because you received education about equality or exposure to diversity, while the other person clearly did not.
Do not expect immediate results. People need time to learn, absorb experiences, understand their mistakes, and learn from them. Be tolerant and have faith in others and their goodwill.
How to deal with gender discrimination
Gender equality etiquette in your social circle
Help friends, relatives, and people you care about to correct their mistakes. Make them aware of what gender discrimination is and why it should be avoided. Be tolerant and non-confrontational. Try to start a dialogue and help them understand what behaviors to avoid and why. If the other person does not show any sign of improvement over time, it may be best to reconsider your relationship with them.
Gender equality etiquette at work or in the office
Every employer has the duty to create a work environment that is welcoming and inclusive. While a tolerant attitude is most appropriate in informal and social circles, gender discrimination should not be tolerated in any professional or institutional setting.
If you experience or witness gender discrimination at work, you can politely correct the offending party. If the issue persists, avoid confrontation. Instead, involve your human resources function. When you find yourself in a work environment where gender discrimination is endemic, do not start a crusade and leave.
Gender equality etiquette at schools and universities
Educational institutions have the duty to educate people about equality. Thus, any discriminatory behavior in such venues cannot be tolerated and must be corrected.
If you experience or witness gender discrimination in an educational institution, you should report it immediately to the institution’s governing bodies. If the issue persists, it is perfectly appropriate to escalate it to any supervisory institution.
Gender equality etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst gender equality etiquette mistakes.
- 10/10. Discriminating based on gender.
- 10/10. Tolerating persistent gender discrimination.
- 9/10. Making generalizations based on gender.
- 8/10. Speaking in a non-inclusive language.
- Sex-based discrimination, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: eeoc.gov