Policy 1.1.3: Guidelines on Sex-Role Portrayal

Effective: September 29, 1993


CBC/Radio-Canada recognizes that women and men are equal.


The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that all persons, children included, are represented and portrayed equitably in programs and commercials broadcast on CBC/Radio-Canada's stations and networks.


The guidelines apply to all programs produced or co-produced by CBC/Radio-Canada, as well as to all programs acquired by the Corporation and advertisements to be broadcast on its station and networks.


Media heads, regional directors and managers of advertising standards are responsible for implementing these guidelines. Departure from the guidelines and follow-up shall be reported to the Senior Vice-President, Media, responsible for the Office of Equitable Portrayal in Programming, or to the Vice-President, Strategy and Public Affairs, responsible for advertising standards.


The guidelines must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Broadcasting Act.

Furthermore, interpretation of the guidelines must not conflict with CBC/Radio-Canada's journalistic, creative and programming independence or with its Journalism Policy and Practices.


In all its programming and advertisements, CBC/Radio-Canada must:


  1. Reflect in realistic manner the place women and men have in contemporary Canadian society and recognize their intellectual and emotional equality.


  1. Present women and men of different ages, or different appearances, of different opinions and interests, in a variety of tasks and roles, including non-traditional ones.


  1. Ban unjustifiable and uncalled-for stereotypes.
    (See Program Policy 1.1.2)


  1. Portray women, as well as men, as persons who have professions, expertise, authority and skills in a range of circumstances, activities and settings.
  2. Portray women and men as equal partners in sharing tasks and responsibilities and as equal beneficiaries of products and services.


  1. In journalistic programs, seek women's opinions, as well as men's, on the full range of public issues.
  2. Strive to reach a balance in the use of women's and men's voices in voice-overs.


  1. Avoid gratuitous exploitation of individuals as sexual lures through dress, overt or suggestive body language, camera movements, innuendo or double entendre.

    Gratuitous exploitation means unjustifiable or uncalled-for exploitation of the human body, or parts of the body, to sell a product or attract an audience.

    Where it is integral to program presentation the on-air representation of tasteful, positive, relevant sexuality, which portrays persons in control of and celebrating their own sexuality is appropriate.


  1. Ensure that language respects the principle of equality between women and men.

To this effect, the Corporation shall enforce the attached guidelines.



So as to ensure a better reflection of changing attitudes in Canadian society, especially in the spoken language, the CBC/Radio-Canada has developed the following guidelines for its on-air personnel.

  1. Use generic terms for both men and women.
    e.g.: Fire fighter, rather than fireman. Flight attendant, rather than steward or stewardess. Nurse, rather than male nurse. Engineer, rather than women engineer.
  2. Put men and women on an equal footing when referring to them socially and professionally.

    e.g.: John Smith and Mary Jones or Mr. Smith and Ms./Mrs./Miss Jones, rather than Mr. Smith and Mary Jones or Mary.
  3. Describe a women in her own right, and not according to her relationship to someone else.

    e.g.: Mary Smith, who is a writer, rather than Mary Smith, who is married to...
  4. Use parallel language to refer to men and women.

    e.g.: Men and women, or ladies and gentlemen, rather than men and ladies or men and girls.
  5. Avoid patronizing terms.

    e.g.: Wife or spouse, rather than the little lady, or better half. Feminist, rather than women's libber.
  6. Use terms that do not exclude either sex.

    e.g.: The Chair, Chairperson, rather than the Chairman. Humanity, rather than mankind. Human achievements rather than man's achievements.
  7. Use plural forms or neutral words to avoid assumptions about a person's sex.

    e.g.: Doctors bill their patients, rather than a doctor bills his patients. People like their comfort, rather than a man likes his comfort.


CBC/Radio-Canada Linguistic Services has prepared the following list of terms as examples of replacements for words that may reflect a sexist bias.

Of course, courtesy dictates that individuals be addressed or designated according to their wishes. Accordingly, if a woman prefers to be known not as the chairperson of the board, but as the chairman, her preference should prevail.

Anchorman Anchor
Businessman Business person, executive
Businessmen Business community, people in business
Cameraman Camera operator
Cleaning lady, woman Cleaner, housekeeper
Craftsman Craftsperson, Craftspeople
Delivery boy Messenger
Draftsman Drafting technician, drafter
Fireman Fire fighter
Gentlemen's agreement Honorable agreement
Housewife Homemaker
Lady doctor Doctor
Maid Houseworker, housekeeper
Mailman Mail carrier, letter carrier
Man-hours Person-hours, work-hours, labour-hours
Manpower Workforce
Newsman Reporter, journalist
Policeman Police officer, constable
Salesman Sales clerk, sales representative
Spokesman Representative, spokesperson
Stewardess Flight attendant
Waitress Server
Watchman Security guard
Workmen's compensation Workers' compensation

Useful references: Words that Count Women Out/In, available from the Ontario Women's Directorate at (416) 314-0292, The Bias-Free Word Finder, Rosalie Maggio, Beacon Press, Boston, Mass., 1991, The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing 2nd Edition, 1988, Casey Miller & Kate Swift, Talking Gender, Ruth King, Copp-Clark Pitman, Toronto, 1991 (Canadian and bilingual).

You may also consult CBC/Radio-Canada's Linguistic Services in Montreal at, (514) 597-7666.

This document is an initiative of the Office of Equitable Portrayal in Programming. It was prepared in cooperation with Linguistic Services and updated in June 1994.

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