Jill Bishop is the CEO at Multilingual Connections. This is an article that originally appeared under the title “The Nuance of Gender Inclusion in Translation.”

You’re almost ready to post a job description for a new role at your global company. You want to make sure it’s gender neutral so that all candidates feel welcome to apply. In English, this isn’t so difficult: you would likely use “they” or “the candidate” to be inclusive.

Gender neutral pronouns like “they” don’t exist in all languages, however – or if they do, they’re not all widely accepted. To make things even trickier, words like “candidate” are gendered in some languages, making neutral forms impossible or in need of workarounds. As you can imagine, translating for gender neutrality can be a thorny issue. Let’s take a deep dive into the nuance of gender inclusiveness in translation to understand why it’s complicated and how linguists approach it.

For many companies, worldwide inclusivity is a core value that they want to nurture among their employees and customers. Whether a job description, a marketing message or a tweet, having gender-neutral language is a priority.

Achieving gender neutrality in translation isn’t always straightforward, either due to linguistic limitations of the language or the complex nature of human identity. New gender-neutral forms may be rejected because people don’t identify with them or because of the political mind-sets surrounding them. Some gender-inclusive words may also lead to clunky phrasing that may not be ideal for savvy marketing copy. The risk is that a potential customer could get bogged down by language considerations instead of focusing on the overall message. In the world of business translation, this would be an infeasible language solution, even if inclusivity were highly valued.

People may regard gender-neutral forms with suspicion or reject them outright for different political...