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  • Writer's pictureThe Bridge Sisters

The Power of Language: Embracing Gender-Inclusive Communications

Updated: Feb 21

By Lorena Gallego Rosero*


Language possesses the power to interpret, imagine, create, and transform. [...] It is essential to analyze and raise awareness regarding our communication methods and how we can initiate substantial transformations through language in various aspects of social activism and advocacy.

"Words have power" is a motivational phrase often said to encourage people to transform their lives through neuro-linguistic programming. However, the influence of words goes far beyond because language functions as a tool, enabling us to understand our surroundings and mold our perception of reality. The choice of words and phrases to describe the world reflects our ability to construct and interpret our shared existence. Such interpretations are replicated and have far-reaching effects in our culture, political thinking, and economy. Therefore, it is essential to analyze and raise awareness regarding our communication methods and how we can initiate substantial transformations through language in various aspects of social activism and advocacy.


Language possesses the power to interpret, imagine, create, and transform. In a patriarchal, misogynistic, LGBTQI+-phobic, racist, and xenophobic society, language has often been used to marginalize women, sexual/gender diverse groups, BIPOC, migrants, the impoverished, and the vulnerable. It has invisibly positioned white heterosexual men as the norm, sidelining others. Phrases like "mankind" in English or "All men are created equal" in the United States Declaration of Independence, suppose that the masculine use of language is universal, while in reality, neither women nor slaves were being considered in this statement. Such expressions reinforce this bias, perpetuating inequalities, stereotypes, and violence.


Developing gender-inclusive communications means recognizing that "language is a tool that influences thoughts, shapes gender roles, and thus has significant potential to establish gender equality in societies."[1] It means taking action to ensure that the power of written, spoken, and symbolic language is used to challenge stereotypes, highlight inequalities, advance rights, and center the stories and experiences of women and diverse gender identities in our work for social justice. This is particularly crucial for organizations that advocate to advance the rights of these populations and/or provide direct services to those who experience additional forms of oppression and discrimination because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, and/or immigration status.


Developing gender-inclusive communications means [...] taking action to ensure that the power of written, spoken, and symbolic language is used to challenge stereotypes, highlight inequalities, advance rights, and center the stories and experiences of women and diverse gender identities in our work for social justice.

Incorporating a gender perspective into internal and external communications is relevant and necessary because it expands the organization's mission impact, avoids further re-victimization and harm to its intended beneficiaries, and upholds consistency. This fosters trust among its audience (whether it is your constituents, marginalized communities, current or potential donors, other supporters, or partner organizations). For instance, consider an organization providing legal services to Latina women survivors of gender-based violence, its communications should aim to dignify survivors, ensuring their safety through an effective confidentiality policy, and avoid reinforcing stereotypes about Latina women, or normalizing forms of violence.

Integrating a gender perspective into your organization's communications is not just an option, it is essential for fostering equity and inclusivity. Embrace the power of language to challenge stereotypes, amplify diverse voices, and protect the rights and dignity of all genders.

There are multiple actions that an organization can take in its communications to challenge gender stereotypes and address inequalities using language, whether it's on their websites, social media, newsletters, annual reports, press releases, etc. Here are five actions you can implement:

  1. Use Gender-Inclusive Language: Challenge the notion of masculinity as the default for universal inclusivity and dare to adjust your language. While this may present complexities in both Spanish and English due to differing language rules, your commitment to driving change is evident in your willingness to make an extra effort. For instance, consider revising commonly used phrases such as "all men are equal" to "All people/humans are equal." If you wish to be more precise and inclusive in your representation of diversity, you can state, "All men, women, and gender-diverse people are created equal."

  2. Avoid Gender Stereotypes: Talk about women and gender diversities in roles outside of what's traditionally expected as a social norm. For example, if you're showcasing success stories, try to highlight characteristics that aren't related to traditionally feminine roles (such as caregiving or beauty) and instead emphasize qualities that make them stand out in their particular field: their professional achievements, decision-making power, leadership in their communities, their resilience in the face of inequality, and other roles that empower and dignify them.

  3. Quote women or BIPOC diversities who made history: Highlight the stories and wisdom of those who have set the precedent before. Let your organization be a platform to amplify their voices and serve as inspiration and example. Ensure that these individuals also represent and are cultural references for the population you intend to impact. For example, if your organization serves the Latinx community, you can quote Latina women or diversities that are community leaders, activists, or serve as public officials, rather than quoting white heterosexual men. "The best thing we could do is work as hard as we can for what is right and what is good.” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

  4. Use disaggregated data: Make sure that the information you collect and share in your reports, press releases, and/or social media is strategically broken into segments (including sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, place of origin/nationality, ethnic/racial identity, number of children, etc.) to highlight the various factors involved in structural inequalities. For instance, rather than presenting broad statistics like “XX% of the Latinx population reports experiencing workplace discrimination,” consider providing a more detailed breakdown that accounts for gender and immigration status: “XX% of the Latinx population reports workplace discrimination. Among this group, xx% are women, and xx% have irregular immigration status."

  5. Be mindful of the photos and images you use to represent your constituents: Use images that portray individuals with dignity and autonomy. Avoid images that (re)victimize or reinforce gender roles, such as black-and-white photos, crying photos, or photos with facial injuries. Additionally, when discussing Black or Latinx women, use images that accurately represent them instead of using images of white women.

Integrating a gender perspective into your organization's communications is not just an option, it is essential for fostering equity and inclusivity. Embrace the power of language to challenge stereotypes, amplify diverse voices, and protect the rights and dignity of all genders.

* Article originally written in Spanish. English translation and adaptation assisted by AI. References and resources:

[1] A GENDER RESPONSIVE COMMUNICATION GUIDE - Rethinking Communication © United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Turkey, February 2021. Link: https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/migration/tr/UNDP-TR-GENDER-RESPONSIVE-COMM-GUIDE.pdf


-GENDER RESPONSIVE COMMUNICATION TOOLKIT - © International Organization for Migration, 2020. Link: https://www.iom.int/sites/g/files/tmzbdl486/files/about-iom/gender/gender_responsive_comms._toolkit_may_14.pdf

- Gender-Inclusive Language - The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Link: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/gender-inclusive-language/



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