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The chairman (also chairperson, chairwoman or chair) is the highest officer of an organized group such as a board, a committee, or a deliberative assembly. The person holding the office is typically elected or appointed by the members of the group. The chair presides over meetings of the assembled group and conducts its business in an orderly fashion. When the group is not in session, the officer's duties often include acting as its head, its representative to the outside world and its spokesperson. In some organizations, this position is also called president (or other title), in others, where a board appoints a president (or other title), the two different terms are used for distinctly different positions.
Other terms sometimes used for the office and its holder include chair, chairperson, chairwoman, presiding officer, president, moderator, facilitator, and convenor. The chairman of a parliamentary chamber is often called the speaker.
The term chair is sometimes used in lieu of chairman, in response to criticisms that using chairman is sexist. It is commonly used today, and has been used as a substitute for chairman since the middle of the 17th century, with its earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary dated 1658-9, only four years after the first citation for chairman.
In his 1992 State of the Union address, then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush used "chairman" for men and "chair" for women. A 1994 Canadian study found the Toronto Star newspaper referring to most presiding men as "chairman", and to most presiding women as "chairperson" or as "chairwoman". The Chronicle of Higher Education uses "chairman" for men and "chairperson" for women. An analysis of the British National Corpus found chairman used 1,142 times, chairperson 130 times and chairwoman 68 times. The National Association of Parliamentarians does not approve using "chairperson".The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and United Press International all use "chairwoman" or "chairman" when referring to women, and forbid use of "chair" or of "chairperson" except in direct quotations. In World Schools Style debating, male chairs are called "Mr. Chairman" and female chairs are called "Madame Chair". The FranklinCovey Style Guide for Business and Technical Communication, as well as the American Psychological Association style guide, advocate using "chair" or "chairperson", rather than "chairman". The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style suggests that the gender-neutral forms are gaining ground. It advocates using "chair" to refer both to men and to women.
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