"Gender and the Language of Business / The Business of Language"

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association Panel Sponsored by the Association for Business Communication
contact email: 

2018 Modern Langauage Association Call for Proposals:

"Gender and the Language of Business / The Business of Language"


Conference: Modern Language Association Convention

Location: New York, NY

Dates: 04–07 January 2018


Full name of organization: Association for Business Communication

Contact email: wcbrown@crk.umn.edu 

Due date for abstracts: 15 March 2017


Call for papers/abstracts: In this panel for the 04-07 January 2018 Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention in New York, NY, the Association for Business Communication (ABC) invites interested participants to submit abstracts for a panel on "Gender and the Language of Business / The Business of Language."


The antimetabole of the panel's title calls attention to the complex rhetorical challenges that characterize communication in a business context. "The Language of Business" is a straightforward variation on the practice of written business communication; this conveys a neutral feeling about business communication.


The play on the title with the switched order, "The Business of Language," opens the title up to more evocative interpretations. Like all communication, business writing has an ideological edge to it that can be used to influence and control perceptions. The "Business of Language" tag at the end of the title emphasizes this sense that language should be interrogated for its explicit or implicit agendas and how it can be used to further particular interests. "The Business of Language" evokes a sense that we don't simply speak the language—language also speaks us, i.e., there is something to language that we don't entirely control.


Recent news, trade journal, and non-profit organization articles on business communication have focused primarily on the impact of bias in workplace communication. Men gain promotions more often than women ("Women in the Workplace 2016," 2016). Men succeed more frequently than women at salary negotiations (Cohn, 2016). Women and men bully women more frequently than men (Strauss, 2016). LGBTQ activists call attention to inequities in workplace policies and cultures ("Advocating for LGBTQ Equality in Your Workplace," 2016).  Arguments against microaggressions appear with greater frequency in discourse on workplace communication (Holder, 2016). In each of these examples, business communication is ideologically infused in a way that reinforces straight, white male supremacy that is quite difficult to challenge.


Although recent trends in popular sources have focused on the inequity of "gender and the language of business / the business of language," recent scholarship in The International Journal of Business Communication has focused less pessimistically on gender's influence on leadership in the workplace (e.g., Baxter, 2015; Walker & Aritz, 2015).


The popular and scholarly conversations on gender and business communication suggest that further research is necessary to have a greater understanding of the role of gender in business communication. This ABC-sponsored panel is interested in expanding the conversation on gender and business communication. Potential research directions include, but are not limited to, the following:


Ÿ • How does gender influence genre and vice versa?

Ÿ • How are we "gendered" through various forms of communication in business environments?

Ÿ • How might we become more critically aware of our own gendered communication when practicing / teaching business communication genres?

Ÿ • What strategies for teaching business communication encompass the implicit and explicit uses of gendered language in workplaces?

Ÿ • How can business writing and communication pedagogies influence—that is, counteract or perpetuate—the ways that gender and language coalesce in the workplace?


We welcome faculty and graduate students to submit their latest research on "Gender and the Language of Business / The Business of Language."


Submission: Submit a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute presentation to William Christopher Brown at wcbrown@crk.umn.edu by 15 March 2017.  Selections will be made through blind review.  All identifying information should be removed from submissions. 


Required memberships: To participate in this panel, all participants must be members of both the Association for Business Communication and the Modern Language Association by 07 April 2017.



Advocating for LGBTQ equality in your workplace. (2016). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/resources/advocating-for-lgbt-equality-in-your-workplace


Baxter, J. (2015). Who wants to be a leader? The linguistic construction of emerging leadership in differently gendered terms. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(4), 427-451. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525460


Cohn, L. (2016, September 06). Women ask for raises as much as men do—but get them less often. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2016/09/06/women-men-salary-negotiations/


Holder, A.M.B. (2016, February 27). Black women often suffer microaggressions at work. LSE US Centre. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2016/02/27/black-women-often-suffer-microaggressions-at-work/


Strauss, K. (2016, July 18). Women in the workplace: Are women tougher on other women? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2016/07/18/women-in-the-workplace-are-women-tougher-on-other-women/#2d37de2f4461


Walker, R.C., & Aritz, J. (2015). Women doing leadership: Leadership styles and organizational culture. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(4), 452-478. doi: 10.1177/2329488415598429


Women in the workplace 2016. (2016). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/women-in-the-workplace-2016