I watched an excellent address from a marketing executive of a great company today, but he surprised me. He referred to the good men and women of his organisation as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.

Now, for anyone who’s ever worked for me, you will know that this makes me wince and shudder.

No one who works in any company or organisation should be referred to as a boy or a girl. A 23 year old tax paying woman is not a girl and a 58 year old national insurance paying man is not a boy. It’s derogatory and proliferates an attitude of men’s jobs and women’s jobs.

I used to work for a director who to referred to the people who worked to her as her ‘gang’. “What are we going to do, gang?”, she would say. I felt like a valued part of her work family and appreciated her friendly recognition of everyone’s value and status.

When you’re talking to and about your people, listen to how you refer to them. Listen to what others say and whether they copy you. Language has meaning and meaning shapes a culture. Think about the culture you want to build in your organisation. Don’t relegate an all female teaching team to being ‘just the girls’ or an all male catering team to being ‘just the boys’.