Gender visibility guidelines for the University of Bologna’s institutional communications

The guidelines include a series of pointers aimed at changing those linguistic choices that may have gender discrimination effects, albeit unintentional.

"Within our University, which represents a micro society, a mirror of the larger external society, we are seeing encouraging signs in terms of reducing the gender gap, however, these are not yet sufficient to point at a decisive and rapid inversion of trend, as women continue to have difficulty accessing high positions and management roles – as the annual Gender Equality Report clearly shows. Greater awareness of the language used within our world can play an important symbolical role in this context. It has now been proven that thanks to discussions on language sexism many environments and institutions have become more sensitive and careful to avoid discrimination and fall into the traps set by the unintentional use of standardised formulas or commonplace assumptions. [...]

The University is an institution that cannot be complacent to customs and trends in its communications, as often advertising and marketing is. It must be cautious with its choice of language and focus on its leading role, divulging good communication practice, which these Guidelines encourage and promote, clearly and simply – this is their great merit – starting within our particular context. [...]

Changing our language is not a revolutionary act, it is a duty. These are particularly sensitive times, times of great global change, in which discussions are taking place with regard to the presence of women in the groups responsible for deciding and defining new policies: the aim is to evolve into a more equal, fair and inclusive future. Language can help us reach this goal."

From the presentation of Chiara Elefante, Vice-Rector of Human Resources


The guidelines comprise two sections.

The first section includes some general pointers on using a more gender-aware grammar in institutional documents produced centrally and in other university structures.

The second section offers suggestions for specific types of communications: calls for applications, regulations and resolutions, other institutional documents, emails, forms and web content.