Gender and Entrepreneurs

By and


Once again, the School of Business has advertised its annual Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, and once again, I am disturbed by the wording of the contest. But this time, I am writing to call attention to it.

Language is a powerful medium, not least because it encodes the values and beliefs of the culture that uses it. The business school’s choice of words is compelling: “entrepreneur,” borrowed from the French, is a masculine-gendered noun?the feminine form is “entrepreneuse.” If the business school’s intent is to reinforce the “glass ceiling,” it has done so.

If, as some may say, the gender bias is unintended, good. Perhaps the word has entered our language without reference to gender. But as a professional writing instructor who is expected to teach students to write for a variety of audiences without bias (gender or otherwise), I feel compelled to point out this issue.

The university mission statement includes policies against exclusion and discrimination; if the business school is made aware of this language distinction, should it not change the title to include everyone? I would think that since the common perception of the business world is as a “good ol’ boy” network, it would be especially sensitive to do so.

Yes, the distinction is subtle. But the way we use language has a way of reinforcing perceptions.

By questioning the use of language, we question the assumptions that underlie it. The business school should change the title of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge and reaffirm its commitment to including women.

Heidi Czerwiec Blitch

English Department/University Writing Program