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Is it rude for woman to ask not to be referred to as a 'girl'?

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

Q. Karen, as a woman I am offended when I am referred to as a girl when the men in our office are referred to as men. And worse yet is to be called “you guys.” It sounds very patronizing to me. Would it be rude of me to say something?

A. These words and phrases are commonly used today, and I have to wonder if people are even aware they are saying them. However, it doesn't mean they should be excused, and that we shouldn't monitor ourselves for language that is unprofessional. Many women are offended by being referred to as a girl, especially by men. And if it is a particularly annoying term to you, I think you could ask to be addressed in a more professional way.

Some other things to keep in mind are:

The “you guys” term has become a catchall phrase when addressing men and women today. It is a phrase that is unprofessional and should be avoided in professional settings. Monitor yourself and see if, and how often you use it. Instead of using “you guys” consider just using you. For example, “how can I help you ladies?”

The term “young lady” when addressing a woman also can be annoying and perceived as patronizing. Be careful to consider a woman's age and position before addressing her in this way.

The use of “honey” or “sweetie” also is very unprofessional. Avoid using these words at all. They are demeaning and again, patronizing.

Match the terminology in the workplace. References to the genders should be “men” and “women” or “ladies” and “gentlemen.”

Do be cautious before calling out someone on the use of a phrase or word. Becoming too militant about some things can get a person labeled as difficult or hypersensitive. Most of the time I would guess people are unaware. People don't know what they don't know. Consider having HR address and educate coworkers on these commonly misused words and phrases.

Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. Do you have a question for her? Email features@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.