Gender-sensitive language

Gender-neutral phrasing means the equality of women and men in language. This makes women and men equally visible in language and means they feel spoken to as equals.
And here’s how it can be implemented...

Code of practice and guidelines

Suggestions for ways in which to implement gender-neutral phrasing:

  • Instructions for using the underscore: Guidelines on gender-neutral phrasing (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)
  • Guidelines and information on equal linguistic treatment (Working group for equal treatment issues at TU Wien)
  • Gender-neutral language use - suggestions and tips (Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and Research)
  • Guidelines on non-discriminatory - language - treatment - image display (Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection)
  • Guidelines on gender-neutral phrasing (Swiss Confederation)
  • Gender-sensitive and non-discriminatory language (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
  • “Short and sweet”. Suggestions on gender-neutral phrasing. (Working group for equal treatment issues at the University of Klagenfurt)
  • Gender-neutral phrasing (Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs)

Legal aspects

Legal standards on equal linguistic treatment are divided into different sets of regulations and laws. TU Wien stipulates in the Plan to promote women, § 11 that “... in all written documents and where appropriate and feasible in oral expression, either explicitly use the female and male forms or gender-neutral terms.”

Scientific research

It has long been known among neuroscientists that it makes a huge difference when women and men are explicitly addressed. You can find more information on this in the following article by Susanne Wagner (2002):

Speech processing in the brain can lead to voltage increases and decreases on the surface of the head, which can be measured via an electroencephalogram. Mistakes such as using a grammatically incorrect word or a word with inappropriate meaning in a sentence lead to very specific voltage modulations. Knowing about the “error messages” of the brain means it is possible to carry out studies on whether job titles like “doctor” or “nurse” are connected to stereotypes about the gender of the people being described (Osterhout et al., 1997). The measurements indicate that stereotypes are stored in the same part of the brain as the meaning of a word.

From the Ministry of Science

In August 2014, Federal Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner wrote the following letter during the public discussions about Binnen-I, the word-internal capital used in German to indicate gender inclusivity, and he also spoke about language regulations at Austrian universities.