Girls, gals, broads: What should women be called at work?

Over the last couple of years, girls have seemingly taken over the world — or at least the word “girls” has. From TV shows like “Girls,” “2 Broke Girls” and “New Girl” to Beyoncé’s megahit “Run the World (Girls),” girl power hasn’t seen this much attention since The Spice Girls.

But what works for pop culture isn’t always a hit in the workplace. On this morning’s “Monday Funday” Labor Day edition of KLG and Hoda, our favorite hosts talked about a recent letter that appeared in the New York Times’ etiquette column, Social Q’s:

“I am a young lawyer (and a man),” wrote the etiquette-inquirer. “I work with a more-senior female lawyer, who refers to the secretaries in our office as ‘girls.’ She’ll say, ‘Please give these papers to the girl outside,’ or ‘The girl at reception has a package for you.’ But these are mostly middle-aged women, and usually older than my lawyer colleague. Still, the women she’s talking about don’t seem to mind. Isn’t this behavior sexist? Should I say something?”

Social Q’s columnist Philip Galanes thought the senior lawyer’s behavior was inappropriate, but Kathie Lee and Hoda were a little more understanding.

“I disagree,” Kathie Lee said of Galanes’ response, before joking that, “At 60, it feels good to be called a girl.”

Hoda said it depended on who was doing it, and what tone was being used. She said that using “girls” in a “dismissive” way isn’t respectful to anyone, but added that, “For a woman doing it to women, I don’t think it’s as offensive for some reason.”

And of course, there are plenty of other ways to refer to women.

“I like the word ‘broad,’” Kathie Lee said. “’Give it to the broad in the front desk,’ — I like that. That says it all.”

Kathie Lee also mentioned that her husband Frank calls women “gals,” which she and Hoda agreed was more of a “generational” description.

With so many opinions, it’s safe to say that exercising a bit of caution—and common courtesy—would serve most well when addressing women. Or anyone for that matter.