#WordsAtWork, behind the bar and in the kitchen

Australian of the Year and former Army chief David Morrison wants Australians says people should stop using gendered words in the workplace because it’s not inclusive of women. Diversity Council Australia released this brilliant video for #WordsAtWork.

The video targets words and phrases like:

  • Referring to women as ‘girls’. It’s the diminutive, where the equivalent of ‘boys’ is less likely to be used.
  • Calling someone ‘bossy’, ‘feisty’ or a ‘ball-breaker’. Notice how it’s only ever used against women? Men will be called ‘leaders’, ‘ambitious’ and ‘boss’ instead.
  • Bitch, fag, poofter, gay, retarded, dyke, abbo. These are no brainers.


I know that many readers will think these are innocuous words.

Here’s the thing: if they are innocuous, then there shouldn’t be an issue with using different words.
Yes, it’s going to take some work.

Employers have a positive obligation to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment. One of the first steps is to have an anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policy.

Not every case of using words like those above will trigger a complaint, or result in employer liability. Some might – and it will be difficult to defend.

Instead, prohibiting those kinds of words – and explaining the reason for that prohibition – should foster a more respectful workplace and more respectful staff.

The kitchen and the bar is a heated place. It has a longstanding and notorious culture.

That’s not an excuse, nor a justification. Nor is it a meaningful defence against a sexual discrimination complaint.

If there’s one thing I think you should include in your sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies, it’s “don’t be that guy”. Encourage employees to call out this kind of behaviour. (More on that over here)

Ken Burgin from Profitable Hospitality hosted me and Natasha Hawker from Employee Matters on a wide ranging podcast about sexual harassment in the hospitality industry.

In Profitable Hospitality podcast 171 – Reducing Sexual Harassment Risks in Hospitality, we tended to consider more serious examples of sexual harassment.

There are plenty of tips from me and Natasha about how to deal with and reduce sexual harassment and discrimination.

What do you think?

Get into the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter with #WordsAtWork.

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