Nick Falconer

Qantas staff told: Don’t ‘manterupt’ women

QANTAS has told its employees­ to be mindful of "manterruptions­" - when men interrupt women - and refrain from using the gender-inappropriate­ words guys, mankind or chairman.

The airline's People and Culture group executive Lesley Grant sent an information pack on how to make employees feel comfortable as part of its Spirit of Inclusion­ month.

The pack advises people to stop using honey, darling or love, even as a term of endearment, because they "often offend".

Qantas CEO Allan Joyce. Picture: The Australian/Renee Nowytarger
Qantas CEO Allan Joyce. Picture: The Australian/Renee Nowytarger

It also encourages staff to use partner and spouse instead of husband­ and wife, and parents instead of mum and dad because it excludes some LGBTI families.

On a more controversial note, Qantas advises staff to "recognise reality" that "Australia was not settled peacefully".

"Describing the arrival of Europeans­ as a 'settlement' is a view of Australian history from the perspective of England rather than Australia," the information pack sent to staff states. "Instead of settlement, try 'colonisation', 'occupation' or 'invasion'."

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Qantas, in an effort to encourage cultural cohesion and avoid "unconscious bias", warns against using terms that could exclude some families.

"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."

Qantas’s spirit of inclusion.
Qantas’s spirit of inclusion.

The material on gender words states: "Language can make groups of people invisible. For example, the use of the term chairman can reinforce the idea that leaders are always men."

Qantas suggests staff use the word humanity instead of mankind, manager instead of foreman, and team, folks, you all or people instead of the term guys.

"Words like 'love', 'honey' or 'darling', even when used as terms of endearment, often offend. In the workplace, it is best to avoid these sorts of words," it says.

In a hilarious fact-box headed "Minimise manterruptions", Qantas­ advises: "Research shows that in many situations, including the workplace, men interrupt and speak over women, while the reverse rarely happens."

Qantas is focusing on inclusivity. Picture: Qantas
Qantas is focusing on inclusivity. Picture: Qantas

The material asks employees to think about words they use for each gender and to stop stereotyping.

"For example, words like 'abrasive' or 'bubbly' are almost never used to describe men," it states, adding that while a man might be called "hard line", a woman in similar situation might be called a "ballbreaker".

Interestingly, Qantas also calls out "seemingly positive stereotypes" and says: "Praising a particular­ action because it is not typical of gender stereotypes is insulting­ (eg, he's amazing collecting his children after school)."

In a note to staff, Ms Grant said she wants Qantas to be an environment where "everyone feels comfortable­ to bring their whole selves to work".

"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," she wrote.

Qantas said the material was devised by the Diversity Council of Australia.

Similar information is provided to many of the council's 450 member organisations.

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