Use inclusive language

Language is a powerful tool and can have a massive impact on athletes. Using the correct language, depending on the situation, is hugely important to ensuring everyone is included and respected. Primary sources: Toolkit for gender-sensitive communications:

Theoretical premises and main definitions

Language reproduces and produces social dynamics

Language reflects the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people's attitudes about what is 'normal' and acceptable. (sources: Overview of the toolkit | European Institute for Gender Equality (

Gender-sensitive language

Gender-sensitive language is gender equality made manifest through language. Gender equality in language is attained when women and men – and those who do not conform to the binary gender system – are addressed through language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect.

Gender-neutral language

This is not gender-specific and considers people in general, with no reference to women or men. It is also called gender-blind language.

Example of gender-neutral language: “People do not fully appreciate the impact they have on the environment.”

Summary of Pronouns

Pronouns | European Institute for Gender Equality (

What are we challenging?

Gender-discriminatory language

Gender-discriminatory language is the opposite of gender-sensitive language. It includes words, phrases and/or other linguistic features that foster stereotypes or demeanours and ignore women or men. At its most extreme, it fails to treat the genders as equal in value, dignity, integrity and respect.

Example of gender-discriminatory language: “Ambassadors and their wives are invited to attend an after-dinner reception”

There are three broad categories under which much gender-discriminatory language falls:

Sexist language

Essentially, sexist language is the same as gender-discriminatory language. However, there is a subtle difference in how people use the terms: sexist language is commonly seen as a language that the user intends to be derogatory; gender-discriminatory language, on the other hand, also includes language people use without any sexist intention.

Example of sexist language: “Women shouldn't coach men teams because women ultimate is worse.”

Gender-biased language

Gender-biased language either implicitly or explicitly favours one gender over another and is a form of gender-discriminatory language.

Example of gender-biased language: “Every day, each citizen must ask himself how he can fulfil his civic duties”.

Practical perspective: Ways to implement inclusive language

General tips


  2. Recognise and raise awareness of how language affects our behaviour and social dynamics

  3. Recognise differences between the needs and the social conditions of women, men, and non-binary people

  4. Challenge unconscious assumptions people have about gender roles in society

  5. Do not automatically assume transgender people identify as ‘non-binary’. Many transgender people identify with one gender; this gender may differ from the one assigned to them at birth.


Here you can find a quick checklist and additional information.

Practical tools (checklists and summary tables) | European Institute for Gender Equality (

How to choose between a gender-sensitive and a gender-neutral language?


Test your knowledge | European Institute for Gender Equality (

Referenced Case Studies

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