Reframe our language about women

It is time to reframe our language about women. Here are five areas that need addressing to change the gendered language.


The line that you can’t solve new problems with old thinking is one that is playing like an earworm in my head at the moment. Every day I see something that makes my pulse rise. You are probably saying I should be grateful I have a pulse, but some of the language used by senior leaders and experts jars every one of my remaining nerves. Now I respect these people. They do great work, but the way they talk about the situation women are in post-pandemic is frankly outdated and needs to change.


Reframe our language about women

5 areas language needs reframing

1. Stop talking about working moms/mums.

Women are 50% of the global population and almost 50% of the workforce. For those who are not in the visible workplace, they are working just somewhere else. This is a term from the 80s – and trust me I know, I was there, to create a hierarchy of mothering, which is no longer relevant. At the same time get rid of the term “mompreneur.”

Do we say” dadpreneur”? Of course not, it sounds ridiculous and is demeaning.

In fact, stop using gendered language when it comes to any role. “Women leader” “female engineer” unless you are going to say “man leader” or “male engineer.”

At the same time bin others such as PodcastHERS (Ugh) and any others that you can think of.

2. Use active not passive vocabulary

Women did not mysteriously “find themselves” with no domestic support during the pandemic. No. Their partners did not take share domestic or parenting responsibilities. Women also for different reasons allowed this to happen. It was either an active choice or a passive default situation. We need to reframe language around men not stepping up to take on their fair share of the parenting role during lockdown.

They also “get attacked” while jogging, dancing, on the train. No. Men attacked them.

We need to stop telling women to protect themselves and start telling men not to hurt women.

3. Kids have fathers

When we talk about the future of work and the new workplace, we also need to adjust our way of thinking and stop talking about getting “moms” back to work. Women without children were also impacted because they occupied roles hard hit by the pandemic. Childcare arrangements are for parents, not just mothers. Let’s start saying that.

Reframe our language about women


There could be situations where women are genuinely on their own. Maybe the father is abusive and needs to be kept away from the children. But we are not  only helping mothers by being creative around childcare, but individual businesses and the global economy.

Download Podcast: Share the load – Online Discussion and Coaching Session with Ian Dinwiddy

4. Imposter Syndrome

This is something that has been positioned as being a “female problem” and acres of print and hours of podcasts have been produced to help women overcome this. It would be more appropriate to shift workplace cultures and practices that tap into and celebrate the confidence and charisma bias. This bias elevates and rewards extraversion as a benchmark of success to the detriment of all other groups  – including introverted men.

Read: RIP Imposter Syndrome – Time for the funeral

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in a post on authenticity called “The Perils of Being Yourself” says “Take women, who despite outperforming and outnumbering men in educational settings, and despite scoring higher on most of the psychological traits that enable superior leadership performance, still represent the underdog across most careers an industries, have enormous pressure to conform to male-normative stereotypes, and repress their authentic self. Whether it is to lean-in when they don’t have the talents to back it up, b***it their way up like incompetent men, or out-male men in masculinity, we have created a system that forces competent women to censor the very traits we badly need in leaders, in order to perpetuate outdated and toxic archetypes of macho leadership.”

These workplace cultures generate feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, for those outside the dominant group. It is fine to be nervous and provided it’s not a clinical form of anxiety, the adrenalin boost that goes with it will enhance your performance.

5. Misleading headlines

This particular headline got on every one of my last nerves. “The female CEOs on this year’s Fortune 500 just broke three all-time records” The percentage is that women make up 8.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 41 female CEOs in total.  AND 2 whole black women are on the list. Let’s start calling it how it is! PITIFUL!

I also flagged this up when I saw the headline around girls as young as FOUR being encouraged to wear “modesty” shorts. Just NOOOO!! Time to tell boys stop harassing girls. And what parent gives a 4 year old a Smart phone anyway.

Buddha said “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.”  Time to reframe.


Tackle these issues head-on with our Managing Unconscious Bias workshops. Contact 3Plus now!


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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