Brad Feld

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You All Instead of You Guys

Feb 12, 2020
Category Diversity

While reading Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor: Fully Revised & Updated Edition: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, I came across an anecdote from a discussion she had with Dick Costolo.

One of my favorite stories about Dick and diversity was his effort to eliminate the phrase “you guys” from his vocabulary. I told him a story about my twins—one a boy and one a girl—who were in kindergarten. Both of their teachers were speculating why boys raise their hands more often than girls. Then I attended a class and heard the questions: “OK, you guys, who knows what four plus one is?” No wonder the girls weren’t raising their hands! Children are literal, and girls are not guys. I told Dick that story, and confessed that I’m literal too and feel annoyed whenever somebody addresses a mixed group as “guys,” or “you guys.” Most people look crossways at me when I launch into my “you guys” diatribe, but Dick smacked his forehead. “Of course! There’s nothing worse than being invisible. I can’t believe I never thought of that! There’s no worse way to make a group of people feel excluded than to use language that pretends they are simply not in the room.”

“Yes, like Invisible Man,” I said. Dick and I had recently discussed Ralph Ellison’s novel about an African-American man whose color renders him invisible.

“Yes, exactly! OK, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to start saying you all!” Dick said.

I’m from Texas, so I generally try to say “y’all” instead of “you all”, but I realize that periodically I’ll slip and say “you guys.” Going forward, I’m going to try to reprogram my brain to get rid of “you guys” from my vocabulary. If you catch me saying it, call me on it.