As a female business owner, the issue of sexism in the business world is one that, unfortunately, I can definitely relate to. It is infantilizing to calling a woman a “girl” when men are so rarely referred to as “boys.” In fact, the only common example I can think of where it is the male referred to in this way, is with the use of the term “boyfriend.”
So is it “girl” or “woman”? In light of the summer’s #LikeAGirl campaign, aimed at reclaiming the word “girl,” Grammar Girl wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Post titled “How to call someone a ‘girl’ without seeming sexist,” noting that entire insults are framed around this concept of “girliness.” Being “like a girl” is, in a lot of contexts, the equivalent of being inferior.
But then again, even the term “woman” is often used unnecessarily. The implicit sexism involved in highlighting a person’s gender without good reason must be avoided to ensure bias-free writing. To quote Grammar Girl once more:
“If you wouldn’t use the word ‘man,’ don’t use ‘woman.’ If you wouldn’t write ‘man lawyer,’ you shouldn’t write ‘woman lawyer.’ The adjective you’re looking for is ‘female,’ and you should use it sparingly.”