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FH Distinguished Lecture Series - Language, gender and inequality at work

by Professor Deborah Cameron, Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication, Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford, UK

Date                 23 March 2018
Time                 5:00pm-6:30pm
Venue               GH201
The talk will be conducted in English.

About the Talk
In Hong Kong, according to the most recent census data, women make up nearly half the workforce (48.7%), but on average they earn less than men and the pay gap actually widened between 2011 and 2015. Only about one in ten company directors is a woman, and women are still under-represented at senior levels in many professions, while conversely they are over-represented in supporting roles. Though the exact details vary, the same trends are found in economically developed countries around the world.

There is a widespread belief that women’s way of using language contributes to this persistent inequality. Working women are bombarded with advice on how to speak more ‘confidently’ and ‘authoritatively’; young women, in particular, are constantly criticised for using language in ways that allegedly undermine their credibility.

But is this helping women or is it harming them? In this lecture I will look at what linguistic research tells us about women’s use of language in the workplace. Does the evidence support the popular belief that there’s a problem? Is the advice women are given based on sound linguistic principles? What role does language really play in maintaining—or reducing—gender inequality at work?  

About the Speaker
Deborah Cameron is a sociolinguist who currently holds the Murdoch Chair of Language and Communication in the Faculty of Linguistics at Oxford University. Since she began her career in the 1980s she has also worked at the universities of London and Strathclyde in the UK, and held visiting positions in the US, Australia and Sweden. She is the author of numerous books, including Verbal Hygiene (1995), Good To Talk (2000), The Myth of Mars and Venus (2007), and most recently, with Sylvia Shaw, Gender, Power and Political Speech (2016). She regularly comments on linguistic topics on BBC radio, and presents research on language and gender for a general audience through her blog Language: a feminist guide.

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