When God created personkind, did He or She know the trouble His or Her creatures would have some day with sexually differentiated or stereotyped language? Did it dawn on Him or Her back then that these beings of His or Hers would become so sensitive on the subject? Or did God find this out for Himself or Herself later?
Whatever the case may be, four types of pronouns have come to us two by two, like animals to Noah's ark . . . plus the adjective couple "his" and "her." And now they tend to clutter up all sorts of communications, from memos to manuals to newspaper columns, whenever we try to generalize.
The problem doesn't arise in dealing with specific people. "Jim should be frank with Nancy about his opinion of her performance," for example, is an acceptable statement. But today, woe unto the person who writes: "A manager should be frank with his secretary about his opinion of her performance."
Unfortunately, the obvious "easy" rephrasing has pitfalls of its own. "A manager should be frank with his or her secretary about his or her opinion of his or her performance" is not only ridiculously clumsy but ambiguous as well. It's definitely rewrite time.
Equally troublesome is our heritage of "category terms" that are now viewed as gender-explicit (a manmade problem, no doubt). We've gradually become accustomed to words such as spokeswoman and policeman. But we have to be alert to avoid calling a woman a cameraman, congressman, councilman, fireman, foreman, mailman or salesman. And we seem to be stuck with seaman, first baseman and telephone lineman, regardless of gender.
All in all, writing or speaking without sexism is a yeoman job. And if you don't agree, ask the man in the street.