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Gender-sensitive language

The Faculty of Medicine recommends the use of gender-sensitive language in all areas. You can find a mini-guideline for orientation in the download (right).

Language is a reflection of our thinking and social structures and is constantly changing. The aim should be to use non-discriminatory, inclusive and respectful language. Gender-sensitive language not only allows all genders to be made visible and addressed in an appreciative manner, but also helps to dismantle invisible structures in our language and thinking and thus change unjust structures.

Gender-sensitive language is not just an individual concern. Since 1999, Section 4 of the North Rhine-Westphalia Equal Opportunities Act has stipulated gender-sensitive language for the public sector in North Rhine-Westphalia: "Laws and other legal provisions shall take account of the equality of women and men in terms of language. The equal linguistic treatment of women and men must be observed in internal and external official communication. Gender-neutral personal designations are to be used in forms. If these cannot be found, the female and male language forms must be used."

In addition to the existing options of male, female and open, a further option, diverse, was introduced in the Civil Status Act in 2017. Building on this, the Rectorate of the University of Cologne called on all administrative units in 2019 to enable the recording of all possible gender information (female, male, diverse, open) in all electronic systems at the University of Cologne. When recording the characteristic "diverse" or "open", a gender-neutral form of address must be used in correspondence (e.g. "Dear title first name last name"). Further information can be found in Rundschreiben No. 27/2019 ("circular letter").

Using gender-sensitive language can be a challenge at first, but with a little practice it quickly becomes routine. In summer 2021, the university's Equal Opportunities Officer published the 7th edition of the comprehensive guide "ÜberzeuGENDERe Sprache", which highlights aspects of legislation, spelling and comprehensibility. Using numerous formulation aids, it makes it easier to get started with gender-sensitive language. Based on this guide, the Faculty of Medicine has created a "mini guide​​​​​​​" (download on the right), which briefly summarizes the most important points.

Let us work together to further develop the Faculty and make progress in terms of anti-discrimination. This also includes gender-sensitive language. Thank you for your cooperation and commitment!