Short Version

The recommendation on language and image use is provided in an accessible pdf version. Please find the Short Version here.


In the Gender Equality Plan (available in German), BOKU endorses the use of gender-fair language free from discrimination and commits to the objective of encouraging language diversity (in accordance with the BOKU Language Policy Plan). The intention is to employ language and treat images in a manner that is as non-violent, inclusive and diversity-aware as possible.


Changes in how we use language can prove challenging for many. With the recommendations present, BOKU therefore intends to provide orientation by focusing on language and images that are more inclusive, gender-sensitive and diversity aware.

Language in flux

Language is – and has always been – in flux. It manifests and is itself a manifestation of societal developments and to a large degree represents the reality we find ourselves in.

Gender-sensitive language use

A gender-sensitive approach recognizes the diversity of genders and therefore opts for wordings and depictions that are as unexclusive of people as possible.

Over the last years, the asterisk (in German: Genderstern) has been established at BOKU as a more gender-sensitive style. The asterisk expresses the diversity of genders. Using the asterisk in the professional title of Professor*innen in German, for example, not only renders visible the masculine as well as the feminine form but also includes all other genders..

EXAMPLES: Autor*innen (authors), Bewerber*innen (applicants), der*die Wissenschafter*in (a researcher that is either male or female or whose gender is not represented in the common binary)

Further Information and examples concerning the asterisk

Equivalently, alternative characters or punctuation such as the underscore or the colon can be used besides the asterisk. (For example Profess_orinnen, Professor:innen). Underscore, colon and asterisk express the diversity of genders, contrary to the medial capital I (Binnen-I) which is used in German to address women and men.

However, the representative study Recommendations for a Gender-fair, Digitally accessible Language (available in German – Empfehlung zu gendergerechter, digital barrierefreier Sprache) suggests the asterisk as the preferred symbol regarding usability, accessibility and user acceptance

Compounds may be hyphenated in order to increase readability.

EXAMPLES Compounds: Mentor*innen-Beziehung (mentor-relationship), Expert*innen-Organisation (organization consisting of experts) etc.

Using gender neutral wording

Not all persons identify with female or male gender attributions. Using gender neutral forms of address in personal communication and non-binary wording in written communication allows to also address humans outside of the binary spectrum of genders.

In German gender-neutral terms can help to simplify language as they are an alternative to gendered expressions. Their benefit: they do not refer to gender and thus do not perpetuate binary gender norms.

EXAMPLES: Studierende (persons who study), Lehrende (persons who teach), Forschende (persons who do research), BOKU Angehörige (members of BOKU), Mitarbeitende (persons employed in an organization), Leitung (persons with executive responsibilities), Personal (staff), …


Written forms of address

Gender neutral or non-binary wording can be used in individualized mass emailing.



Guten Tag Vorname Nachname – Good Day First Name Last Name

Sehr geehrte*r Vorname Nachname – Esteemed First Name Last Name

Liebe*r Vorname (Nachname) – Dear First Name (Last Name)


Sehr geehrte Lehrende / Studierende / Führungskräfte – Esteemed persons teaching / persons studying / persons with management responsibilities

Liebe Teammitglieder / Teilnehmende / Interessierte – Dear team members / attendees / persons interested

When personally communicating with persons you know identify as men or women, you can continue to use gender specific binary forms of address.

In their 2021 guideline Gender-sensitive Language – Dialogue as Equals (available in German – Geschlechtssensible Sprache - Dialog auf Augenhöhe), the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment explains why communication should be sensitive to gender, which legal framework governs its use as well as the roles played by accessibility and technical infrastructure.

Diversity-aware and inclusive usage of language and images

Language becomes (more) inclusive when it aims to put into focus, point out and render visible as many perspectives, different realities of life, groups of people and realms of experience as possible.

Language and image use characterized by diversity-awareness and inclusivity allows for equitable visibility of all humans. This involves addressing people in their diversity with the aim of reaching out to everyone without excluding, offending or discriminating anyone. Signifying in this way an equitable interaction of all people.

The following questions may prove helpful: Whom do I want to address? Who may feel excluded or not included?

Who’s visible? Who isn’t?


When depicting families, for example, this implies that attention needs to be payed to the diverse concepts of how family life can be lived and to refrain from showing white nuclear families with a biological mother, a biological father and biological children.

Which concepts of family life often remain unseen? Persons caring for other persons, single-parent households, family members with disabilities, BIPoC* Families, queer parenthood, …

We can rethink and disrupt topic-specific representations, for example, by rendering people of colour** and people with disabilities visible as part of our every-day reality instead of exclusively using them to illustrate the topics of internationality or inclusion, respectively.

Further information as well as links to image-platforms are shared on allcodesarebeautiful

The photo database Gesellschaftsbilder (SocietyPix) puts the focus on various aspects of diversity.

* the abbreviation BIPoC denotes Black, Indigenous and People of Colour,

** People of Colour used in an analytical and political context describes the shared experiences of non-white persons; further information Link

Guideline Inclusive Language Use

Johannes Kepler University Linz offers an accessible and plain treatment of inclusive and fair language with the abridged version of its inclusive language guideline (available in German – Inklusive Sprache – Was bedeutet das kurz erklärt?)

eAccessibility and Accessibility

Furnishing images with alternative texts and videos with subtitles renders them more accessible.

Content becomes more inclusive when documents are framed in a manner that pays attention to the reduction of barriers rendering them more accessible for people using assistive technologies.


Assistive technologies are technological devices such as screenreaders that aid people with visual or similar impairments.

Continue to Creating Accessible Documents (available in German)

Digital accessibility refers to technical and content requirements and takes into account the principles of perceptibility, usability, understandability and stability defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Visit for further information on eAccessiblity and Accessiblity at BOKU (available in German)

Conscious Language in Research and Teaching

Language plays an important role in both environments of teaching and studying as well as in research. In order to create a culture of communication and teaching characterized by respect and appreciation it is important to employ language consciously.

Useful Links for Teaching at the University

Berlin Free University provides helpful information on Gender Senstivity in English and Gender- and Diversity Conscious Use of Images in Teaching.

The booklet "trans. inter*. nicht-binär" (available in German) explores how to create environments of teaching and studying that are respectful, reflective of gender, and critical of discrimination.

The manual “Taking into Account Diversity in Teaching” (available in German – Diversität in der Lehre berücksichtigen) of TU Graz asks why diversity in teaching is important. It is intended for everyone involved in passing on knowledge.

Using Names, Pronouns and Academic Titles

Respectful communication occurs also in the proper use of names, pronouns (also: personal pronouns) and titles.

Concerning written communication, email signatures are very suitable for providing information on which pronouns or titles to use or how to accurately pronounce your own name.

Stating Academic Titles

German academic titles can render gender visible.

BEISPIELE Dr. / (female doctor) / Dr.x / Dr.* (x and * are used to signify a person outside the gender binary)

Specifications of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research on “Considering gender in academic titles and in the degree certificate” (available in German – Berücksichtigung des Geschlechts in akademischen Titeln und in der Verleihungsurkunde).

Using Pronouns

Besides the common German prononouns sie / ihr (she / her) or er / ihm (he / him) additional (neo)pronouns may be used such as they / them, dey / deren, hen / hens, xier, none, …

Additional information in your email signature can help in order to be approached and addressed accordingly.

EXAMPLES (Title) First Name Last Name (Title) [sie/ihr | she/her]

EXAMPLES “My pronouns: he/him. Please let me know which pronouns you use.”

EXAMPLES “I appreciate gender neutral forms of address such as Good Day / Dear / Esteemed / Hello + First Name Last Name”

EXAMPLES “I do not use pronouns and appreciate being addressed by name. In order to be able to address you correctly in the future, I look forward to learning about your pronouns”

EXAMPLES “I use Dx and they/them pronouns. Please let me know yours, thank you.”

EXAMPLES (Ger/Eng): [ Pronomen sie/ihr | Pronouns she/her ]

Using and Pronouncing Names

Individual usage of (first) names may differ from the names registered in official documents. The information provided in the signature can be used to directly address people as well as contact them in written form in accordance with their names.

Email signatures may also contain information concerning the proper pronunciation of Names:

EXAMPLES Link to an audio recording (e.g. via Soundcloud) entitled “How to pronounce my name”

Who gets to speak – Who is listened to?

The university is a complex organization with extensive networks of communication and flows of information. In a university culture characterized by openness, respectful communication and information is reflected also in particular in the use of language and the manner HOW people communicate and share information with each other – for instance in the conception and organization of events and meetings.

Access to information as well as the possibility to express themselves differs for different people. Management staff and people in decision-making positions, for example, have more leeway than others. By transparently sharing information and rendering communication gender-sensitive, diversity-aware and inclusive they can contribute to a university culture characterized by respect and openness substantially.

EXAMPLE When inviting speakers to a panel this may translate into the conscious selection of (male/female/trans) experts who represent as well as mirror society’s inherent diversity.

Framing presentations

For hosts of meetings, panels, workshops, committee meetings, etc. a number of tools exist to provide formats of exchange and dialogue characterized by communication that is both fair and full of respect.

EXAMPLE Introduction

Prior to the event, members of panels may be asked how they envision being introduced.

Besides name and occupation/position introductions may refer to the pronouns used.

EXAMPLE Time limits for speakers & respectful communication

Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that individuals occupy a considerable amount of space and speaking time while others hardly get a word in. Hosts find themselves in a position to create equilibrium and can also set the framework of the podium/the workshop/the meeting/committee meetings. They can also consciously choose to hand over the floor to those who have participated to a lesser extent.

In order to set the space for respectful communication, the host may inform all participants about the general rules of communication and suggest a few rules of conduct:

* motivating all participants to meet each other in as unbiased a manner as possible

* allowing the person speaking to finish uninterrupted

* refraining from negative comments, lecturing others, or non-verbal cues (for example rolling of the eyes, grinning, consciously turning away)

* allotting equitable time for speaking

EXAMPLE Using spoken language that is conscious of gender

In German, words such as Professor*in can be pronounced with a “glottal stop“* or with a short pause, consciously rendering audible the inclusion of all genders. The use of neutral wordings in German forgoes the gender binary and addresses all genders, for example Anwesende (the people present), Publikum (audience), Teilnehmende (participants).

If women are to be addressed specifically, the feminine form may be used, such as Professorinnen (female professors), Studentinnen (female students), Forscherinnen (female researchers). Expressively addressing women and men can be done by referring to both gendered forms, for example Autorinnen und Autoren (female and male authors), Besucherinnen und Besucher (female and male visitors). Bear in mind, however, that gender identity may not always be visible on the outside. When in doubt it is better to use forms of address that are gender neutral.

*the “glottal stop” is referred to in German as Stimmritzenverschlusslaut (approximately translated as “the sound emanated by closing the glottis”). In German the glottal stop is present before all words that start with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u, ä, ö, ü) but also within words such as aufessen(to eat up) or beinhalten (to include).

Wording of job advertisements

Job advertisements play an important role for every organization concerning recruitment. Job advertisements that consider aspects of diversity not only are testament to a professional demeanor but also render the advertisement appealing to a broader range of applicants.

Therefore, job advertisements should be drafted in a gender-fair manner free from discrimination.

This does not include, however, job advertisements published within the framework of certain supportive schemes intended to counteract the significant underrepresentation of a certain gender (“positive discrimination”). Further exceptions may be acceptable in cases of specific jobs and roles requiring for their execution qualifications connected to a certain gender, for example when filling the position of tenor in a choir.

Qualification requirements – ethnic background

When stating qualifications, it is important to refrain from using discriminatory wording connected to national, regional or ethnic-cultural background.

EXAMPLE Language proficiency

Instead of phrasings such as “native German speaker“, “German spoken and written at native-level proficiency” or “perfect language skills” (nobody is able to communicate in perfect German!), more precise specifications may be made in relation to the language requirements of the respective vacancy:

* very good command of spoken and written German and English

* highly proficient in German

* German Level C2

Language requirements must match the requirements of the job advertised, a higher-level position may be preconditioned upon higher language proficiency.

Simple, manual labor without customer interaction does not necessitate excellent language skills, for example. In such a case a “good command of German” can be sufficient. In the case of academic positions with teaching obligations, an excellent command of German and English may well be a requirement.

EXAMPLE Driver’s license / required driving skills

Instead of requiring for example an “Austrian driving license B“, the following wordings may be used:

* driver’s license/permit B

* appropriate driver’s license for driving multi-track motor vehicles in Austria

Qualification requirements – age

When indicating qualification, it is important to avoid discriminatory wording connected to age.


Phrases such as “several years of experience” or “entry-level position” are often associated with age and may discriminate against individual persons or exclude them from applying.

Suitable phrasings that should be preferred:

* relevant / specialized experience

* substantial / solid / proven track record of experience


When advertising tenure track positions the phrase “several years of professional academic experience” can be included, given that this represents a prerequisite for the career path connected to the position.

“Young scientists” or “we are a young team” are wordings that may exclude older persons because both descriptions refer to age. The following phrases are more suitable:

* junior scientists

* early researcher

* we are a diverse team

Qualification requirements – gender

When indicating qualification, it is important to avoid discriminatory wording connected to gender. Instead gender-neutral phrases or the asterisk can often be used.


Kund*innen, Stakeholder*innen, Projektpartner*innen (customers, stakeholders, project partners – equally addressing female, male and gender-diverse persons)

Dissertation (statt Doktorarbeit) (dissertation (instead of doctoral thesis))

Meister*in-Prüfung (statt Meisterprüfung) (master craftsperson examination (instead of master craftsman examination))

English job descriptions that are not Anglicisms* are neutral in themselves and may be used accordingly, for example “System Engineer“, if required the German addition of “(m/w/d)” (male/female/gender-diverse) represents an option.

More common Anglicisms in German such as Manager or User will be gendered by using the asterisk, for example Manager*in (managing person) or User*innen (female, male, gender diverse users).

EXAMPLE job application headshot**

Job applications are to be assessed without bias. The outward appearance of applicants is in no way connected to their qualification. When selecting candidates, subjective criteria should be excluded, therefore job advertisements may request that applicants DO NOT include a photo.

Gender-fair wording in German job advertisements may be checked with the FührMINT Gender Decoder (available in German).

The video Recruitment Bias in Research Institutes addresses biases that may arise further on in the application process.


Heidelberg University offers an Online Tutorial on Gender Bias in Appointment Procedures.

* Anglicisms are words and phrases that have been borrowed from the English language.

** The practice of including headshots in applications still represents the predominantly unquestioned norm in Austria.


One of our concerns is to use language as non-violently, inclusive and diversity-aware as possible. When we practice awareness of speech and treat images consciously we actively contribute towards equitable gender relations, diversity and inclusion and thus actively shape an appreciative and positive university culture.



Rectorate of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)


Editorial office

Team Diversity of BOKU


Coordinating & process design

Coordination Office for Gender Equality, Diversity and Accessibility



Process consultant & copy editing

Anna Steinberger, BSc BSc MA


The invitation to collaborate and participate was extended to the following entities at BOKU

Equal Opportunities Working Party, Staff council – non-scientific staff, Staff council – scientific staff, BOKU-International relations, BOKU4you, Personell development, Personell management, Public Relations, Austrian National Union of Students at BOKU (Executive Board, Queer Department, Department for Women, Feminism and Equality), Study services



Josef Kreutz-Soxberger, BA MA


Graphic design

Caterina Krüger


The editorial team would like to thank all external persons, offices and project teams who have provided valuable impulses with their language guides, handouts and recommendations, among others the Department for Human Resource Development, Gender and Diversity Management/Johannes Kepler University Linz, the Culture and Equality unit/University of Vienna, the Office for Gender Equality and Equal Opportunity/Graz University of Technology, Beatriz Arias Martin, the Ombud for Equal Treatment, the project team Non-Binary Universities/Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the Austrian Federal Ministery of Education, Science and Research, the stakeholders of DAS NETTZ, the team Zentrale Frauenbeauftragte/Freie Universität Berlin, the Chair of Research and Science Management/Technical University of Munich, the Institució CERCA/Centres de Recerca de Catalunya, UNIFY - Unit for Family, Diversity and Equality/University of Heidelberg, the Federal Monitoring Agency for Accessibility of Information Technology Berlin, allcodesarebeautiful Design & Communication, Gesellschaftsbilder - Die Fotodatenbank mit neuen Perspektiven

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