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#balanceforbetter on International Women’s Day

By Memrise Team

On a day to day basis, to you balance might mean making sure that you have a token green salad alongside that cheeky takeaway. Or it might mean making sure you have some ‘you time’ by binge-watching Game of Thrones, hanging with some friends, or learning some new vocab on Memrise at the end of a long hard day’s work.

International Women’s Day 2019 is about making sure balance means more than that. It’s about ensuring that when you walk into a board meeting, fill in a polling card on election day, or watch TV you see an equal representation between genders. It’s about seeing just as many girls on the football field as boys. It’s about hearing the same amount of female artists on the radio as male artists. It’s about not being the only woman working on a team full of men (or vice versa). It’s about #balanceforbetter.

A balanced society makes the world a better place because it broadens our perspective, breaks down barriers, and creates an environment of equal opportunities. Balance opens our mind and allows us to connect better with other people. It makes it easier to understand the points of view of others and it makes it easier to learn. And learning is something we’re pretty hot on at Memrise.

So how do we strive for balance here? Beyond aspiring for gender balance in our team (we’re really proud that roughly 48% of our employees are female) we also know how important it is to equally represent men and women in our course material. For example, when we find local people to demonstrate pronunciations, we look for a balanced mix of men and women to feature so you’re experiencing equality while you learn.

Another way we ensure gender parity is by teaching phrases in a balanced way so they’re relevant to everyone, whether you’re cis, trans, or non-binary. If we’re teaching the sentence ‘today is my husband’s birthday’, both a man and a woman will show you how to say it in your chosen language.

And at Memrise we make sure that we always look for ways that we can be more balanced in the future, so this means being mindful of how languages are adapting to be more gender equal.

Take Romance languages, the collective noun for a group often defaults to the masculine term. In French, you say ‘l’avocat’ for a male lawyer, ‘l’avocate’ for a female lawyer, and ‘les avocats’ for a group of lawyers – the plural of the male noun – even if the group contains men and women. But it’s now becoming more common to use punctuation to append the feminine suffix as well, giving ‘les avocat.e.s’, ‘les avocat-e-s’, or even ‘les avocatEs’.

In Spanish, you can also use an alternative suffix to be more gender inclusive. If you don’t want to write ‘todos’ for ‘everyone’ because it only acknowledges the involvement of men, you can use ‘tod@s’ to truly include everyone. Similarly, the noun ‘Latino’ refers to a Latin man, ‘Latina’ refers to Latin woman, and now there is the option to use ‘Latinx’ or ‘Latin@’, which are gender neutral.

With the increasing understanding and appreciation of gender non-conforming individuals, there is also now growing support for the use of the third, gender-neutral pronoun. Accordingly, it’s respectful to ask what pronoun someone prefers, instead of assuming. For instance in English, some people prefer to use the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’, and in Swedish, the gender-neutral ‘hen’ can be used to replace the gender-specific ‘hon’ (she) and ‘han’ (he).

And so this International Women’s Day, Memrise pledges to continue to make decisions towards #balanceforbetter.