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​The future of women in the working world: ‘Dear Sirs’ - a default choice or simple change?

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In our sub-series of devcast… ‘The future of women in the working world’, Nicola Broomham – Director of Client Solutions at deverellsmith sat down with Susan Gregory – Organisational Development Consultant and Ellie Rees – Co-owner and Director at Brickworks for Pt.3.

In this episode, the three discuss Ellie Rees’s ‘Dear Sirs’ campaign, which aims to highlight and dismantle the use of ‘Dear Sirs…’ as a default language within the property and legal world. Ellie has been unravelling the complexities surrounding this seemingly innocuous phrase and exploring how making this small change can catalyse a much-needed transformation within the real estate landscape.

How did the ‘Dear Sirs’ campaign begin?

Ellie explains the phrase “Dear Sirs” remains prevalent within the context of Estate Agency and conveyance, particularly within legal and property professions. This traditional salutation continues to serve as the default choice for initiating formal communication, whether in the form of a letter or an email directed towards a company or a collective group of individuals.

Ellie recounts her initial experiences upon entering the Estate Agency industry, coming across her first ‘Dear Sirs’ salutation. She comments that she found it strange that her gender was not accounted for, and they must have not realised she was a woman.

Her curiosity in the matter led her to quickly learn that the was embedded into our history, and when asked politely to not be addressed as ‘Sir’ she was met by the argument that this is the way it has always been done and is a legal default.

What is the aim of the ‘Dear Sirs’ campaign? 

The above experience prompted Ellie to delve further into linguistic conventions, and how she could advocate for inclusivity in professional interactions.

Ellie developed the formal ‘Dear Sirs’ campaign, which gained traction from leaders within the industry, as well as the press. She started to write about her experience and now the campaign is working towards eradicating Dear Sirs and other non-inclusive language within the industry.

In addition, Ellie expressed that the ‘Dear Sirs’ campaign is a hook for a much broader cultural attitude that is very male-dominant within the industry and is an umbrella for other conversations to be had regarding inclusivity.