This is controversial not only among citizens, but also among linguists –
April 8th, 2021 5:55 am
The generic masculine, as it is currently used for all genders, has been the subject of criticism for a long time.
Photo: Martin Müller via www.imago-images.de, imago images / Martin Müller
Since March 1st, only Audi employees have been working at the car manufacturer Audi. The Ingolstadt-based company is taking up the long-simmering debate about so-called gender-sensitive language – but is no longer alone in the economy.
The generic masculine has been criticized for years. Police officers, teachers, doctors: so far, male personal and professional titles have been used predominantly to address all genders. Women and people who do not want to or cannot assign themselves to a binary gender – that is, man or woman – are also included.
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Audi is taking a different approach, from now on using a different form for internal and external communication in order to “depict the diversity of the genders,” announced the group. Gender-sensitive language is a question of respect and an expression of an attitude against discrimination and for diversity. For a year the group worked on a corresponding guideline, which now bears the title “The lead begins in the head” and is available to the Audi employees. In order to make all genders visible, it is recommended that employees use the underscore notation – the “gender gap”. When asked, it says: “The gender gap represents all non-binary gender identities between men and women (e.g. employees) and is therefore better than the internal I.”
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Audi is no longer alone with its changeover, as a survey among local companies shows: According to this, since the end of last year, Datev has had a guide that applies to all communication channels and provides recommendations for gender-conscious language. The guideline is not a “static work”, but is continuously being developed. When asked, Puma refers to the just published release of the quarterly figures that gender-neutral language has already been used there. Now they are working on expanding this to other areas, such as the Group’s website. “Much more important for us, however, is that all genders have the same career opportunities at Puma.”
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The situation is similar at Adidas in Herzogenaurach: The sporting goods manufacturer has already set out “specific requirements for an inclusive language” in a set of guidelines; Generally speaking, however, the company language is English. “Accordingly, we sometimes use the gender-neutral pronoun they in communication.” Siemens announced that gender-appropriate language was being used “although not yet systematically”. Schaeffler did not want to comment on the topic.
For the development of the guideline, Audi worked together with the “PrOut at Work” foundation, an organization that addresses the concerns of LGBT * IQ people (German: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans *, inter * and queer people) wants to make it visible in the workplace. They are not yet aware of many companies that communicate in a gender-sensitive manner, according to diversity expert and board member of the Albert Kehrer Foundation. Language is powerful, so you have to be active. “The more we communicate in a gender-sensitive manner, the more we address other genders. This not only has an advantage for our LGBT * IQ community, but also for women. I am convinced it will have an impact.”
In fact, there are already representative studies that show that people prefer to apply to companies that represent diversity. The StepOne online platform, for example, surveyed 11,000 people, 77 percent of whom said they would prefer to apply to a company that is committed to openness and equal opportunities. 78 percent said they prefer to work in a diverse environment.
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Opinions differ not only among citizens but also among linguists as to whether gender-sensitive language is needed. Rudolf Stöber, Professor of Communication Science at the University of Bamberg, recently sparked discussions with an essay. In it, Stöber argues that “realities here real discrimination” cannot be removed from the world by changing the language. “Anyone who consciously manipulates language in order to first change their thinking and thus promote emancipation may wake up in astonishment one day because something completely different has occurred: Gender * and internal I have taken the place of desirable emancipation – and is there it stayed. ” Other scholars, on the other hand, refer to studies according to which the use of gender-neutral pronouns apparently has an effect on the perception of equality.
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At Audi, too, there were discussions after the changeover: “With almost 59,000 employees, there are of course many opinions.” This also shows how personally language is perceived, said a spokeswoman. “That is exactly what we want to achieve: a conscious use of language. For most people, using gender-sensitive language is a major change that takes time.”