Dr Anne-Charlotte Husson: The Language and Inclusivity Project

Last week, NU Women hosted Dr Anne-Charlotte Husson to introduce us to her work developing Newcastle University’s Language and Inclusivity Guide.

The guide was developed using ten staff and student interviews, eighty-four survey responses, a literature review, and focus groups to test the guide before publication. From these data sources, the guide was built with several core considerations in mind, including ensuring gender is treated as intersectional, taking account of the various needs of students and (academic and PS staff), and fitting the guide into the University’s broader EDI agenda. It also recognises that the University is a multilingual, multicultural, and intergenerational environment, and is sensitive to how to open up conversations around gender and inclusive language across these contexts.

There are two types of language addressed in the guide: language that is always offensive (slurs), and language that is tied with changing cultural norms (e.g. pronouns, titles, and addressing mixed groups as ‘guys’). The guide is not intended to be a ‘cheat sheet’ outlining words to use or to avoid, rather it is intended to establish a basis for shared understanding around issues of gender inequality and form the foundations of conversations around gender across the University.

Since its publication in 2019, the guide has also been translated into several languages spoken across the University and will be translated into several more in the coming months.

How to use the guide

The guide is split into four sections. The introduction takes readers through why language matters to EDI, a brief primer on sociolinguistics, and addresses the complexities of (reclaimed) slurs.

The next section, Gender in so many words, introduces readers to ten key notions around gender and how they are used. These include broad ideas such as ‘gender’ and ‘intersectionality’ alongside more specific terms like ‘cisgender’ and ‘queer.’ This section concludes with I got it wrong. What do I do? Here, the guide outlines steps to take when making a socio-linguistic mistake, emphasising the importance of reflecting on mistakes and learning from them.

This work is continued into the next section, Gender-Inclusive Language, which guides readers through recognising and avoiding gendered biases and offensive language and provides a detailed view to addressing the many nuanced socio-linguistic issues tied up with gender.

Next steps

Following the publication of the guide the Language and Inclusivity Project is looking to extend its work into three key areas. First, they intend to develop staff training resources that are sensitive to meeting the specific training needs of different staff members and work areas. Similarly, they aim to extend their work into the teaching and learning environment, although this will look different for different schools. Core to this is a recognition that gender is always present in the classroom. Finally, the Project also aims to include students in this and are working to make sure every student is exposed to questions related to gender, inclusivity, and language.

If you’re interested in hearing more about or would like to get involved in the project, please email: anne-charlotte.husson@newcastle.ac.uk

A recording of the event is available below:

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