Win Chesson: Why Gender-Inclusive Language Matters | Summary and Q&A

April 28, 2016
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Win Chesson: Why Gender-Inclusive Language Matters


Sexist language perpetuates inequality and exclusion, and it is important to use gender-inclusive terms for a more equal society.

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Key Insights

  • 🕵️‍♀️ Sexist language exists not only in derogatory words but in seemingly innocent, everyday words that associate power with males and weakness with females.
  • 👶 Children are deeply impacted by gendered language and can feel excluded when not included.
  • ⚧️ Language is a choice, and committing to gender-inclusive language is a simple but powerful action towards a more inclusive society.
  • 🧔‍♀️ Gender-inclusive language benefits everyone, including men, as it promotes equality and signals a commitment to women.
  • ⚧️ Excluding and diminishing language has real and lasting consequences, perpetuating gender inequality.
  • 👶 By using inclusive language, we break a wire in the birdcage of gender inequity, creating new openings for equality.
  • 🥹 Gender-inclusive language requires intention, unlearning, and a supportive community that holds each other accountable.


[MUSIC] My mother started as a first year student at the University of North Carolina in 1972. That would not have been possible had she been born just a few years earlier. For most of its history, UNC was an exclusively male institution, like many universities. And while we've come an incredible long way from there, sexism is still alive and well.... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does sexist language affect gender expectations and self-worth?

Sexist language perpetuates the association of male terms with power and strength, while female terms are associated with insult and weakness. This shapes societal expectations for men and women and affects individuals' self-perception and worth.

Q: Why is gender-inclusive language important?

Gender-inclusive language promotes equality, inclusivity, and respect for all genders. It helps create a more welcoming and equal society by challenging gender norms and stereotypes.

Q: How does language exclude women linguistically?

When using male-based generics, like "chairman" or "fireman," it sets the expectation that these roles are for men. Even if a woman achieves the title, she is often seen as an exception rather than the norm, erasing women linguistically and reinforcing gender inequality.

Q: Why is focusing on language important for gender equality?

Language is a powerful tool of thought and community-building. By breaking free from sexist language and using gender-inclusive terms, we challenge gender inequalities and actively demonstrate our commitment to gender equality.


In this video, the speaker discusses the power of language in shaping our expectations for men and women and how male-centered words are still prevalent in our culture. She shares an anecdote about her niece feeling excluded when she used the term "you guys" to refer to her and her brothers. The speaker emphasizes the importance of gender-inclusive language and its ability to create a more equal and inclusive society.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the speaker's concern regarding language and gender?

The speaker is concerned about the perpetual association of male terms with power and strength, and female terms with insult and weakness. She questions how these associations shape our expectations of men and women and our own self-worth.

Q: How did the speaker's niece feel excluded by language?

The speaker's niece, Ella, felt excluded when the speaker asked only her brothers what they wanted to do, using the term "you guys." Ella took it literally and logically felt left out, leading her to question why the speaker didn't care about her. This incident made the speaker realize the impact of language on making someone feel included or excluded.

Q: How does the speaker illustrate the absurdity of male-centered words?

The speaker references the philosopher Douglas Hofstetler, who satirically replaces male-based generic words with race-based ones. For example, "mankind" becomes "whitekind," "freshman" becomes "freshwhite," and "chairman" becomes "chairwhite." Through this illustration, the speaker highlights the ridiculousness of expecting people of color to feel included by such terms, and likens it to the exclusion of women through male-centered words.

Q: How does the use of male-based generics impact women who achieve certain titles or positions?

When women achieve titles like chairman, they become exceptions rather than the norm. Male-based generics set the expectation that chairmen are men, and thus, when a woman achieves that title, she is seen as an exception rather than the rule. This perpetuates the idea that certain positions of power and authority are primarily for men.

Q: What negative consequences arise from using female words to insult women?

When female words are used to insult women, it communicates a disturbing message. It reinforces negative stereotypes and contributes to a culture that belittles and diminishes women. Such language can have real and lasting consequences, affecting how women are perceived and treated.

Q: Why does the speaker believe focusing on language is important?

The speaker believes focusing on language is important because it is something that everyone has the power to change. Language is a choice we constantly make, and gender-inclusive language can be implemented immediately. It serves as a proactive signal of commitment to women and creates a more inclusive and equal society.

Q: How does the speaker address the concern that male-centered words are deeply embedded in our culture?

The speaker acknowledges that getting rid of male-centered words requires intention and unlearning. She emphasizes the need for a community that holds one another accountable in replacing gendered words with gender-neutral options. By working together, the speaker believes that change is possible.


The video highlights the importance of gender-inclusive language in creating a more equal and inclusive society. The speaker emphasizes that language shapes our expectations for men and women and can impact our self-worth. By replacing male-centered words with gender-neutral options, we can actively signal our commitment to women and build a world that values and respects their contributions. Implementing such language is a powerful tool for breaking societal barriers and building a more inclusive future.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Sexist language is still prevalent in society, with male-centered words being used more commonly.

  • Children are impacted by gendered language, feeling excluded and lesser when not included.

  • Using inclusive language is vital for creating a more equal and inclusive society, as it reflects our commitment to gender equality.

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