Image Courtesy Qantas Facebook
Qantas has sent its employees a pamphlet encouraging them to adopt gender-neutral language at work and on flights as part of the company's Spirit Of Inclusion Month, which began in March.
The guidance was taken from information sent to 150 Australian businesses by the Diversity Council of Australia, and is designed to create a more inclusive environment for staff and passengers.
The information states that “Always using the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ can reinforce the idea that people are always in heterosexual relationships.”
“In the same way, always referring to ‘mum and dad’ can make many families feel excluded — both same-sex couples and single-parent families.”
Staff are requested to use words like “partner,” “spouse” and “parents" to create a more inclusive environment. The pack requests that staff avoid using terms such as “guys”, “honey” and “darling” due to the offense they can cause.
The information also encourages staff to create a more equal environment for women. “Language can make groups of people invisible. For example, the use of the term chairman can reinforce the idea that leaders are always men.”
Male employees are encouraged to “minimise manteruptions” when women are speaking.
“Research shows that in many situations, including the workplace, men interrupt and speak over women, while the reverse rarely happens, the information states.”
The pamphlet encourages staff to be more sensitive to indigenous Australians, asking them to “recognise reality” that “Australia was not settled peacefully.” Staff are asked to use terms such as “colonisation, “occupation” or “invasion” instead of “settlement” when discussing the arrival of Europeans to Australia.
“We want Qantas to be an inclusive workplace and we shared some factsheets created by the Diversity Council of Australia with some suggestions on more inclusive language, particularly on gender, age and LGBTI issues,” said Qantas’ people and culture group executive Lesley Grant.
“We have a long and proud history of promoting inclusion among our people, our customers and society, including support of indigenous issues, gender parity in business and marriage equality,” said Grant.
The leaked document has been harshly criticised on social media, with some people complaining their heterosexual rights are being impinged upon. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined the criticism on Radio 4BC, calling the pamphlet “political correctness gone way over the top.”
“Frankly, if companies like Qantas want to give their customers a better deal, they can scrap all these inclusion units, just scrap them and save the money, because it’s just rubbish this idea that we need a corporate thought police."
“I mean really and truly, it is a complete and absolute utter waste of money. Qantas staff are very good people, they are decent, sensitive people, and they don’t need this kind of nonsense. It is an insult to them.”
“This is the very weird and strange times in which we live.”
Many companies overseas have encouraged staff to adopt gender-neutral language, including the London Tube, which adopted gender neutral announcements in July last year. 10 countries, including Australia, allow gender-neutral options on passports.
In a statement, the Diversity Council of Australia said it was “not telling people what they can and can’t say."
“We are simply asking people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and look at what they say from another perspective – and be open to changing what they have always thought is ‘normal’, respectful and appropriate to say,” the statement says.
Openly gay Qantas boss Alan Joyce has a long and proud history of supporting equality, which has seen him criticised by anti-LGBT elements of the government, media and public. In March last year, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Joyce and other CEOs to "stick to their knitting" and keep their companies out of the debate on marriage equality, after 30 CEOS signed a letter to the government asking them to urgently act on marriage equality.
In May last year, marriage equality opponent Tony Overheu hit Joyce in the face with a lemon meringue pie whilst he was addressing 500 people at a business lunch. Overheu pleaded guilty to assault and trespass.
In August last year, Qantas threw their support behind the yes campaign in the Australian same-sex marriage postal survey and in September Joyce personally donated $1million to the Yes campaign.
Joyce said the lemon meringue pie attack “encouraged” him to “be out there and express my views even more strongly than I have done in the past."
“Qantas has always spoken up on gender issues, on LGBTI issues, on indigenous issues, and we’ll continue to do so, and no attempt at bullying us into suppressing our voice will work,” he said.