Diversity & inclusion in digital communications

Diversity & inclusion at McGill

At McGill we aim to develop an equitable, diverse, and inclusive campus which includes our digital spaces. It is therefore important that our digital communications are aligned with these goals and reflect the University’s mission. For more information about diversity and inclusion initiatives and learning opportunities at McGill, visit the Equity at McGill website.

Diversity & inclusion in our digital content

There are a multitude of ways in which we can communicate our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our digital content. A few are listed below:

  • Avoid tokenising when representing diverse groups in your photos and graphics
  • Consider the user experience of all members of your community when creating and structuring content
  • Use plain language
  • Use gender-neutral language (see details below)
  • Avoid language that suggests victimhood, e.g. “suffers from”, “confined to a wheelchair”
  • Use language that combats stigma related to mental illness, suicide, and substance use (see details below)
  • Ensure racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and capitalized. For additional information see Racial and Ethnic Identity. APA Style
  • Include an acknowledgement of the traditional territory. For more information, see, e.g., the Land Acknowledgement web page and the Traditional Territory web page on the Equity at McGill website.

Diversity & inclusion in digital communications projects

In addition to reflecting diversity and inclusion in our digital content, work toward integrating diversity and inclusion at all stages of your digital projects - research and planning, building, ongoing evaluation and hiring of contractors and staff. When diversity is represented, avoid tokenising and stereotyping.

Important resources

To fully understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in digital content, we would encourage you to view the related resources below.

Gender-neutral language

Gender-neutral nouns

When reviewing and writing content, look for gendered nouns (such as "man" and words ending in "man") and replace these with more gender-neutral language. Here are a few examples of alternatives:

English pronouns

Gendered noun

Gender-neutral noun

man

person, individual

mankind

people, human beings, humanity

freshman

first-year student

man-made

machine-made, synthetic, artificial

the common man

the average person

chairman

chair, chairperson, coordinator, head

mailman

mail carrier, letter carrier, postal worker

policeman

police officer

steward, stewardess

flight attendant

French Pronouns

Gendered noun

Gender-neutral noun

un étudiant, une étudiante

la communauté étudiante, les universitaires

un directeur, une directrice

la direction

le recteur, la rectrice

le rectorat

le professeur, la professeure

le corps professoral, le corps enseignant

un employé, une employée

le personnel

un Québécois, un Québécoise

la population québécoise

un chercheur, une chercheuse

les maîtres de recherche

Consult a thesaurus for additional gender-neutral nouns.

Gender-neutral pronouns

The practice of exclusively using masculine pronouns (he, his and him) to refer to people or groups of people whose gender varies or is unknown is no longer recommended. Here are a few alternatives to consider:

1. Replace gendered pronouns with gender-neutral nouns

You can replace gendered pronouns with gender-neutral nouns.

Original sentence

Rephrased

He/she will be assigned to groups.

Candidates will be assigned to groups.

She/he will receive a notification email upon registration.

Registrants will receive a notification email upon registration.

2. Make nouns and pronouns plural

If it works for your writing, using plural forms is often an excellent option.

Original sentence

Rephrased

Each participant must make requests using his/her own email account.

Participants must make requests using their own email accounts.

A researcher can request internal peer review from the Associate Dean of his/her Faculty.

Researchers can request an internal peer review from the Associate Dean of their Faculty.

If we make “participant” and “researcher" plural and adjust the rest of the sentence accordingly, we remove the need for gendered language.

3. Use “they” as a singular pronoun

The pronoun “they” can also be used as a gender-neutral option for singular pronouns. For example, “Can you ask them if they can email me the resource?” Consider your audience carefully when determining whether this solution is appropriate.

Respectful language for mental illness, suicide, and substance use

Misperceptions and stigma around mental illness, suicide, and substance use are still represented in common phrases. Speaking and writing about these topics in a more respectful and accurate way helps reduce stigma and promote inclusion. Here are some guidelines to help you create more inclusive and respectful content.

  1. Avoid casual use of slang terms related to mental illness and substance use ("bonkers," "nuts," "crazy"). Instead, think about the feeling or observation that you're really trying to convey. For example, frustrating, irritating, funny, or bizarre might be more accurate terms for the feeling or adjective you're looking for. 
  2. Focus on a person's experience, instead of using it as a label. For example, "A person living with mental illness" or "A person experiencing depression" are more respectful formulations than "A mentally ill person" or "A depressed person."
  3. Try not to make assumptions about someone's experience of mental illness. Instead of describing someone as "suffering" from mental illness, it's more inclusive to describe them as "living with" or "experiencing" mental illness. 
  4. Use accurate terms for substance use and substance use disorder. (Avoid labeling people as junkies or addicts, or formulating substance use disorder as "substance abuse.") It can also be helpful to focus on the current reality of a person (e.g. in recovery) rather than their past experience of substance use. 
  5. Use sensitive, plain language when speaking about death by suicide and attempted suicide. Avoid terms like "committed suicide" or "successful suicide," as well as "failed" or "unsuccessful" suicide attempts. These have unhelpful (or even painful) connotations. 

References

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