Italian sociologists are at the top of political correctness and anglomania, but simply they don’t know that in the anglosphere the only term considered politically correct to design persons leading a meeting – even if they are not female, homosexual, lesbian – is Chairperson, or Chair.
The term chairman, which combines connotations of power with grammatical gender bias, has been a keyword in feminist sensitivities about language. Chairwoman dates from the 17th century, but (as the Old English (up to 1150)D notes) it was hardly a recognized name until the 19th century, and even then it did not solve the problem of how to refer neutrally to a chairman/chairwoman when the gender was unknown or irrelevant. Two gender-neutral alternatives emerged in the 20th century: chairperson and chair, both first attested in the 1970s, although chair was already in use to mean ‘the authority invested in a chairman’:
I was recently challenged for using ‘chairman’ to describe my position. My accuser went on to assert that I was being insensitive to the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission by not using ‘chairwoman’, ‘chairperson’, or ‘chair’.—Ann Scully, Times, 1988.
Chair seems to be more popular than chairperson, partly because it seems less contrived and partly because it is more malleable in meaning, whereas chairperson requires the impossibly cumbersome derivative chairpersonship. Although it could once be claimed that chairperson tended to be used as an alternative for chairwoman rather than for chairman or chairwoman (that is to say, that a chairperson was usually a woman) this is increasingly less the case as usage evens out
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/chairman-chairwoman-chairperson-chair-usage#ixzz21qBD99Zr.