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Running a gender-inclusive project

The IT and low carbon energy research domains are fields, where female researchers are notoriously underrepresented (UNESCO 2019, Women in Science). Despite this fact, the preparation of EERAdata revealed that many female researchers are pioneering opening and FAIRification activities in the energy and other domains. Therefore, this new and emerging research field provides an excellent opportunity to improve gender balance in science. EERAdata, therefore, sets out:

  • To improve the visibility of female researchers and their contributions by inviting them to EERAdata workshops (giving preference over their male colleagues with similar expert background). Note that the application has been initiated by and is led by a female researcher. The consortium also considered gender balance when selecting members to the advisory board, 
  • To collect examples of human bias amplified by low carbon energy data and methods of data collection and analysis, identified during workshop discussion. This collection will be used as an input to the discussion during the final workshop, which will be supported by the invited expert Carol Azungi Dralega who works in the field of gender, climate change, and internet technologies. Insights will be taken up in a dedicated chapter of D2.3, pointing to identified biases and suggesting solutions to reduce or eliminate them, 
  • To review metadata standards, the community platform (incl. search functions), website entries and project deliverables for compliance with gender-neutral/gender-inclusive language standards before publication (e.g. UN toolbox for gender-inclusive language  and other compliance tests). 

UN toolbox for gender-inclusive language

Summary from website:

Gender in English

In English, there is a difference between “grammatical gender”, “gender as a social construct” (which refers to the roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society at a certain time considers appropriate for men or women) and “sex” as a biological characteristic of living beings.

English has very few gender markers: the pronouns and possessives (he, she, her and his); and some nouns and forms of address. Most English nouns do not have grammatical gender forms (teacher, president), whereas a few nouns are specifically masculine or feminine (actor/actress, waiter/waitress). Some nouns that once ended in -man now have neutral equivalents that are used to include both genders (police officer for policeman/policewoman, spokesperson for spokesman, chair/chairperson for chairman).

A challenge for gender-inclusive communication in English is the use of the masculine form by default. For example, “Every Permanent Representative must submit his credentials to Protocol.”


Use non-discriminatory English:

  • Forms of address
Example "less inclusive": “Professor Smith (surname and title for a man) and Madeline (first name for a woman) will attend the luncheon.”
Example "more inclusive": “Professor Smith and Professor Jones will attend the luncheon (surname and title for both).
  • Avoid gender-biased expressions or expressions that reinforce gender stereotypes. How do I know if I am using discriminatory language?

Reverse the gender: Would reversing the designation or the term from masculine to feminine or vice versa change the meaning or emphasis of the sentence? Would it make the sentence sound odd?

“Women should not seek out leadership positions."
“Men cannot do two things at the same time.

  • Make gender visible when it is relevant for communication:

Using feminine and masculine pronouns: “Pairing” is the use of both feminine and masculine forms (he or she; her or his). It is a strategy that may be used when the author/speaker wants to explicitly make both women and men visible. It is advisable not to overuse this strategy in English, however, as it may be distracting to the reader, in particular in narrative texts. It may also create inconsistencies or render the text less accurate — for example, in legal texts.

The feminine and masculine forms can be alternated throughout the text. This strategy should be used with caution, however, in particular when its use may affect the meaning of the text, cause confusion or be distracting to the reader. It may be more appropriate to alternate masculine and feminine forms by paragraph or section, rather than by sentence or phrase.

Example: “When a staff member accepts an offer of employment he or she must be able to assume that the offer is duly authorized. To qualify for payment of the mobility incentive, she or he must have five years’ prior continuous service on a fixed-term or continuing appointment.”

Using two different words: In cases in which highlighting gender would make the sentence more inclusive, two separate words can be used. This strategy should be used only when popular beliefs or preconceptions may obscure the presence or action of either gender. Examples: “Boys and girls should attend the first cooking class with their parents.” “All of the soldiers, both men and women, responded negatively to question 5 in the survey.”

  • Do not make gender visible when it is not relevant for communication:

Use gender-neutral worlds: e.g., human-caused or artificial instead of man-made.

Using plural nouns/adjectives: Example: “Before submitting your document, send it to the focal point for their review; they will return it to you with comments.”

  • Using the pronoun "one": Example: “A staff member in Antarctica earns less than one in New York.”
  • Using the relative pronoun "who": Example: “A complainant, who is not satisfied with the board’s decision can ask for a rehearing.”
  • Use a plural antecedent: Example: “Substitute judges must certify that they have familiarized themselves with the record of the proceedings.”
  • Omit the gendered word. Example: “A person must reside continuously in the Territory for 20 years before applying for permanent residence.”

Material for a training session'-engagement-session_en.pdf

Additional resources

Additional resources (on gender-inclusive language) published by various entities within the UN System Checklists

Guidelines and indicators/principles


Other documents