Language is constantly evolving, and using the most inclusive and accurate terminology to describe people, groups of people, pronouns, conditions, and other identity- or ability-related topics is critical to reflecting your firm’s commitment to DEI—not just in DEI-specific materials but throughout your firm’s comms.
We recommend starting by asking yourself:
- Are we being specific and intentional in our taxonomy?
- Are we updating our comms as language evolves?
- What steps can we take to ensure that we’re staying up-to-date?
Let’s take a closer look at each of these questions.
Am I being specific and intentional in my taxonomy? When choosing what taxonomy to use, it is not just about clarity but about understanding nuances and context. Do your due diligence so that you can be as specific as possible and recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all. Language should be chosen intentionally based on the situation and who you’re addressing.
For example, we often see Latino/a/Hispanic and Black/African American used interchangeably, but each has a specific meaning and cultural context. Taking time to understand these nuances and being respectful of your audience show that you’re prioritizing making your clients and employees feel valued and included. When in doubt, consult with communities affected. This is a great opportunity to speak with leaders and members of inclusion networks.
Am I updating my comms as language evolves? Language to describe DEI-related concepts, groups or initiatives is dynamic and what is considered inclusive is rapidly changing. The reality is that you’ll need to course correct and update terminology along the way.
For example, though widely used a few years ago, the acronym POC has fallen out of favor. It is now considered to have become flattened and meaningless, as it has morphed into a catch-all for anyone who is not White. Many DEI experts and advocates now prefer to use BIPOC or to name each individual group instead of using an acronym. Using the current preferred language can go a long way to show that your firm is not only culturally competent but also putting in the effort to learn and grow.
What steps can I take to ensure that I’m staying up-to-date? Reading op-eds, monitoring online dialogue and academic discourse, and engaging inclusion network leaders and members in pre-publication reviews is a best practice. The most important thing is that you continue to educate yourself, be open to feedback, and listen to members of the groups you’re addressing or referencing.
We recently published an extensive DEI report that goes further into these topics. If you’re struggling with your DEI comms or simply curious if there are areas where your firm could perform better, you can download it [here].
Three Furies is a certified woman-owned business, brand, and content strategy agency with deep experience in the legal marketing sector, including digital marketing analysis, brand and digital design, communications strategy, and advertising campaigns.