By Angela Lankford, Senior Content Writer, WGU Labs
WGU Labs offers a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Audit as a service. We help education institutions identify equity gaps at their schools and create actionable plans to close them. To help put actions behind our words, I created a company-wide Inclusive Language Guide to ensure that we not only use this language in our research with students and institutions, but also our daily interactions with each other.
Academic research often seeks to shed light on disparities, reveal systematic biases, and close equity gaps. But sometimes the language we use to discuss people from historically underrepresented groups and their experiences can contradict our message and intentions. Creating an inclusive language guide can help research teams develop a shared vocabulary focused on inclusion, allowing our words to match the true intentions of our writing.
As Jason Thompson, WGU’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion states, choosing to use inclusive language is about being respectful. Many times, people argue that they are uncertain about the correct terms to use, or they suggest there are too many terms to remember. But Thompson suggests that if our goal is respect, then the list of terms is never too long.
When I first sat down to write this guide, I got very overwhelmed and thought to myself: “Why did I volunteer to do this? I’m in over my head.” There are a lot of terms out there, and it’s easy to feel like you’re saying the wrong thing, but at the end of the day, this is important work! We can’t let this fear stop us, and there are many resources to help.
Here are 7 lessons I learned from creating an Inclusive Language Guide for WGU Labs.