I thought you might be a helpful sounding board from something I’m experiencing at work.
Recently, one of our female executive leaders has been using the word Ladies as a salutation in her emails that include men in the To and/or the Cc of the email.
I’m indifferent to people using ladies, women, men, gentlemen, etc., in emails, but I feel that care should be given when the email contains mixed-gender recipients. As an example, there have been instances where there was just one female in the To section and mixed genders were cc’d, but the executive used Ladies. Had the email included more than one female in the To section, I believe this would have been a suitable use of the salutation Ladies.
Would you care to share your thoughts on this?
How would you respond to Rob? Do you and your executive team members use gender-based greetings such as Ladies in emails?
Rob’s issue perplexed me. Why would anyone use Ladies as a greeting for a message going to a mixed-gender audience? It makes no sense. I can only guess that the writer sometimes unthinkingly types a greeting that she often uses when writing to a group of women–despite her current audience.
But beyond that, mentioning gender in the greeting of company emails is not appropriate. That’s because gender-based language leaves out and hurts gender-fluid (non-binary) people in the workplace. Ladies does not fit them, and neither does Gentlemen. For more background on using appropriate, sensitive language, read my blog post “A Guide to Gender-Neutral Language.”
If you have been using gender-based language such as Ladies or Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t worry. You have many gender-neutral ways of greeting readers:
Hello to all,
Hello Commission Members,
Greetings, Finance! [or another team name]
Folks, [if your organization uses that word]
Friends, [for a friendly group of recipients]
You can also skip the greeting and simply start with a positive or warm opening sentence. Examples:
I am pleased to introduce our new executive editor.
I am happy to provide the attached customer feedback.
Welcome back from the holiday weekend!
Thank you for your support of the XYZ program.
I recommend that Rob’s company create a communication policy to guide people toward gender-neutral language. I’d also suggest that someone get a copy of A Quick & Easy Guide to They-Them Pronouns and review it for the company blog or newsletter. Rob’s executive and others in the company will not change their behavior without information and encouragement.
What would you tell Rob? How does your organization deal with gender issues in communication? Please share.
By the way, I have been writing about Ladies for many years. Read my 2007 blog post “Women, Ladies, and Girls at Work,” which inspired Rob to write to me.