TRADITIONAL references to Madam mayor and Mr chairman could be banished from Southend Council in a drive to adopt gender-neutral language.

Labour councillors will urge the council to ditch terms such as “chairman” in favour of gender-neutral terms such as “chair”.

Helen McDonald, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, raised concerns that gendered language can “discourage women and minority groups from engaging in politics”.

Gender-neutral language aims to avoid word choices that could be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning.

The move has gained the support of the LGBTQ+ community, with Dan Turpin, co-chair of Southend Pride, branding titles like chairman “archaic”.

Mr Turpin said: “This is a massively positive move, but it is about time really.

“History states some times we have to use these terms, but people are identified by their names not their genders. There is no need for the formal element.

“The council has shown us a lot of support and its encouraging to know they are trying to be more inclusive. When you stereotype roles it can become confusing, hopefully this will encourage more women to put themselves forward for these positions.”

Both Gloucestershire Council and Oxford Council have previously made the switch to gender-neutral language.

Mrs McDonald admitted she made the call after being referred to as “chairman” on a number of occasions.

She said: “The use of male universals was something I noticed soon after being elected but my decision to present a motion came after I was elected chair of licensing and, within the space of my first few hearings, I had been addressed as chairman several times.

“Some people may say this is silly and that many other people have it much worse, I believe that it is indicative of an assumption that positions of power and authority are always held by men and such attitudes can lead to more issues for women and minority groups.

“Southend councillors, as a group, are not representative of the town and, while this motion and the use of gender neutral language will not change this overnight, I hope it will start a conversation around representation of women and minority groups and indicate that this is an issue that the council takes seriously.” The motion will be debated Thursday.