Why BMO wants to rewrite the dictionary to fight sexism

As part of its ongoing efforts to empower women and tackle discrimination, BMO is trying to change the definition of some sexist terms.

Along with its creative agency FCB Canada, the bank has created a petition to eliminate gender bias in dictionary definitions of words and terms like “gold digger,” “shopaholic” and “trophy wife.”

“Dictionary.com defines a gold digger as ‘Informal. a woman who associates with or marries a man chiefly for material gain,'” reads the petition. “When even the simple words we use suggest to girls that they are bad with money, it undermines their financial confidence.”

There are also new 15-second ads being distributed through social channels, along with influencer outreach.

The latest campaign coincides with the recent International Day of the Girl (Oct. 11), and follows a spring campaign for International Women’s Day that similarly focused on systemic barriers to economic equality between men and women. That campaign included an ad showing the ways women are left out of money discussions from a young age, eroding their financial confidence and contributing to financial inequality.

“The first step to financial empowerment for women is understanding the societal issue that may be holding them back,” said Jennifer Carli, vice-president, head, brand and social media for BMO Financial Group, in a release. “We are using the petition to raise awareness of the impact that the words we use can have on women’s financial confidence, and we’re inviting consumers to help us make a change for the next generation of girls.”

“These biased words are so ingrained in our culture,” said Elma Karabegovic, associate creative director, FCB Canada. “By officially amending the meanings, we can start changing old and outdated habits. It will take time, but this is the first step.”


David Brown