My organization is seeking to replace all "manpower" terminology with gender neutral terms. There are some instances where the conventional abbreviation "EQM", which stands for "Equivalent Manpower" is used. Is there a commonly accepted substitute for this abbreviation which is gender neutral?

NOTE: This is not a question seeking general answers for terms, and it is thus not a purely opinion based question. This is a question of standards and conventions. If I asked if there is a conventional term in physics for "influence which tends to change the motion of an object" that is not an EL&U question. EL&U could have many answers for a word which means "influence which tends to change the motion of an object", but in physics there is one standard: "Force".

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about issues of English Language & Usage
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 14:14
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    I don't understand the downvote either. This isn't about the specifics of English Language.
    – user18296
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 14:15
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    @gnat I am asking for a term which is commonly accepted in management. I thought Workplace would have more information on this than EL&U. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 14:15
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    Isn't the term "manpower" pretty widespread and means men or women. Same for "freshman" e.g. in high school or college. No one thinks it is gender biased.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 14:39
  • Your physics analogy doesn't work. If you thought "Force" was a feminine word, and were asking for an alternative, then you would be asking a language question, not a physics one. This is no different. "Manpower", like "Force", is the standard, conventional, gender-neutral term. It is more standard than any of the alternatives given here, which are all more ambiguous. If you want to follow conventions and maximize understanding, do so, instead of quibbling over imaginary problems.
    – nmclean
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 16:30

3 Answers 3


Is there a commonly accepted substitute for this abbreviation which is gender neutral?

My current company (and several others where I have worked) uses the term FTE - Full-time Equivalent. We use that for project planning and staffing.

No gender is stated or implied by that term.

I've heard it used at many companies in my part of the world, but I don't know how to define "commonly accepted substitute" in this context.

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    My company also uses FTE.
    – alroc
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 15:02
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    FTE seems to be the norm can you say why EQM is different? and I cant find an real definition online is EQM some single company only jargon?
    – Pepone
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 18:43
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    @called2voyage so just say xx department has 250 FTE
    – Pepone
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 19:56
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    FTE is used only really in summation (like you say EQM is), so it seems identical to me (and very common in my experience as well). "My department has 15 FTEs, with a total headcount of 20. 10 of my developers are half time and ten are full time."
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:01
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    FTE is, in my experience, very widely used in professions like teaching and nursing in the USA. It seems a fine choice.
    – O. Jones
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:50

Well, let's leave aside for the moment that "Manpower" IS gender-neutral ("Man" meaning Mankind, and not males. Woman is actually a subset/specialization of Man, if you want to break the language down to brass tacks).

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman#Etymology

But, I've seen this ridiculous exercise played out a few times, and in all but one, sanity returned when people realized what "Manpower" actually meant.

Terms I've seen that you may wish to consider:

  • Workforce Equivalent - WFE (Oddly enough, was balked at because it "looked like" Wife)
  • Effective Labor Output - ELO
  • Equivalent Labor - EQL

In the end, it almost always reverted back to EQM once people understood what the word "Man" actually means.

You're being asked to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

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    *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. For extended discussions, Get a Room (a chat room).
    – enderland
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 20:32
  • I do understand what manpower means - but there is a valid objection to the term contained in your own explanation. 'Man' should technically be replaced by 'Woman', since female is the blueprint for homo sapiens, thus making the female primary, not a 'subset/specialization'; it's the other way around from a biological point of view.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 13:28
  • @Bamboo - biologically, yes. Linguistically, my point stands. You are welcome to submit your own answer. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:02
  • @WesleyLong. No energy for that fight, because really it should be Womankind! Imagine the uproar...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:04
  • Actually - You would be "proper" in usurping Man to mean female, by default. Then males would need a prefix. "He-Man" would work for me. All males must now be referred to as "He-Men." :) Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:08

Unless someone else can bring any other insights to this, I have discovered the term equivalent workforce, which seems to have replaced "equivalent manpower" (supported by Google Ngrams).

As suggested by Garrison Neely in the comments, there does not appear to be an abbreviation for "equivalent workforce", but the full term is used instead.

  • If you're going to go with Google Ngrams as support, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that equivalent labor has always been more-used than either of those, and as of c.1967 full-time equivalent (as suggested in another answer) has far eclipsed all of them. bit.ly/YcIiNs
    – Kromey
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 0:17

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