Skip to main content

Campaign to ban sexist language at work

Sexist Language

A new campaign is claiming that pet names and sexist language can hold women back at work and should be banned.

A nationwide poll asked more than 2,000 women to share the pet names that they would like to see banned from the workplace. The survey by Kellogg’s cereal Special K, found that at the top of the list was “bird”, closely followed by “babe”, “chick” and “doll”.

Bitchy, ball breaker, high maintenance and hormonal were also on the list that women said were inappropriate, along with honey and gorgeous.

The survey found that 40 per cent of women had felt patronised when called a pet name at work, with a third having been told to ‘man up’ at work.

And it isn’t just men using these names that women have an issue with. 13% of the women asked said they had felt belittled when a woman called them ‘babe’ or ‘doll’. While 30% said they had been called a flirt or show off, particularly when they were younger. Some responders said they felt that this had affected their self-esteem and confidence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of women questioned for the poll said they’d much prefer for women to be described in more respectful and positive terms such as ‘confident’, ‘resilient’ or ‘courageous’.

While some employers and staff may think that using names like honey or love is acceptable as terms of endearment, or that it’s what they call everyone so is harmless, it could land them in hot water. There can be situations where name calling can constitute sexual harassment, especially if it creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment.

Interested in what we do?

Get the latest news from HR Solutions delivered to your inbox