Challenge words and definitions with Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris in IWD pose

How to challenge words and definitions

As part of your personal shout out for the upcoming International Women’s Day and its #BreakTheBias theme, I’d invite you to think hard about the words we use and what they may hide.

I love a bit of word-play 🙂 so let’s challenge the idea that ‘confidence’ is what counts. Everyone I know has made more progress by capitalising on their skills, expertise and competence to get ahead. In short, competence is what actually builds sustainable confidence. However, this year, we’d be well-served by looking at the assumptions in the words we and others choose. To challenge words and definitions is a great start.

For example: ‘Unconscious‘ bias is a phrase many are aiming to reduce. Admittedly, it was useful to get people to first engage with the idea that they may have preconceptions they aren’t aware of.However, I now worry it’s being used as a bit of a ‘convenient excuse’ by those who want to explain away their actions while also asking you to accept their outdated beliefs as ‘it’s just who I am!’ Plenty of words are overused but poorly defined. I’ve already talked at length at ‘confidence’ and it’s far more important neighbour ‘competent’. But there are so many other examples when we think about what it means to ‘build back better’ as we’ve now been asked to do, or the difference between ‘breadwinning’ and and it’s far more accurate cousin ‘breadsharing’, that I’m now focused on in a new talk.

Clearly, our words do matter, and these are just a few I’ve heard a lot – and even used in the titles of some of my books. However, they all bear looking at more closely to uncover our assumptions.

No doubt you are heading to your own IWD celebrations, but if you want to understand a bit more about what I mean, take a look at the video below – where I focus specifically on this topic of language for this year’s theme. 

And then let me know which words you think we should be challenging and redefining as we go forward.

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