What’s in a Name?

Explore how language can confirm stereotypes and gender bias


This is a fun and creative activity that gives you the job of “CREATOR OF NEW WORDS.” First you will identify language that is gender or race biased. Then you will work to create language that is bias free and gender neutral.

What to do

  1. Have a look at the following “Gendered Language” information and decide if you agree or disagree with the information provided? Why?
  2. Think of ways to change the words on the PDF sheet to make them gender/race fair and neutral. 
  3. Make your own unbiased vocabulary flash cards.


Gendered Language

Throughout the years, job titles have caused us to think in terms of different genders. In the past only people of one gender performed certain jobs. But as times have changed and more women have entered the work force, jobs once reserved for certain genders have changed. Policeman, fireman, or fisherman were once seen as ‘male jobs’, and jobs such as housewife, nurse, and teacher were recognised as ‘female jobs’.

Evolution of words

Many women and men have entered jobs that were once gender specific. Now we hear job titles such as flight attendant, fisherperson and homemaker. Language has had to change to reflect the change of the workforce.

We still have words to describe careers and jobs that we have found hard to change. For example, we call the person in charge on a construction site a ‘Foreman’. Think of the history of this job — at one time the only people employed as construction workers were men. In a hospital, if you called a nurse into a room, what would be your reaction to a man walking in? Would you be surprised? To this day we still consider some occupations gender specific. Even though males and females alike have crossed the career boundaries for many years.

Stuck with historic language?

We still use these gender-biased labels even though they reflect our past more accurately than the present. Some people try and tell us that it is “inclusive” to use these titles, that both men and women can use them. This is not true. What would happen if a group of males were referred to as “you gals?” Yet females are called “you guys” all the time.

As careers change and more men and women cross over the gender line to work across all sectors, we need to consider the words used to describe new occupations. We need to reinforce positive gender recognition in the workplace, both in traditional and non traditional jobs.

Examples of gendered words

Look at the words on the what’s in a name pdf. Can you think of ways you would change these titles to make the language more gender neutral or fair? You could, for example, use the title Chair instead of Chairman. But you might come up with something more exciting and original!

Take it Further

This is an activity adapted from the IFM-SEI publication Rainbow Resources.  It contains educational activities on issues such as identity, gender equality, heteronormativity, bullying, love and families in order to promote human rights education with children on sexuality and gender rights. A PDF of the full book is available here in a range of languages.

Explore how to challenge all prejudice and discrimination in the activity Write off Prejudice.


Enjoyed this?

Share it with your friends and ensure that young people can continue to do fun activities together.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp

Chip in to help

A small donation can go a long way. If you've found this activity useful, consider chipping in to help us to help young people through this crisis.