The study of linguistic sexism started in Western societies in the 1970s with the women's movement, which challenged patriarchal dominance in all facets of life. One of the main concerns of early language and gender research was to expose the distorted representation of the sexes in language use and in language systems. Linguistic sexism, by definition, refers to the use of language expressions in such a way that it constitutes an unbalanced portrayal of the sexes. Traditionally, masculine 'generics' such as he and the morpheme man are used to represent both sexes when the sex is unknown or unspecified, or when the sexes of the referents are mixed. Given that students are frequently required to assimilate the materials of their textbooks in detail, they have the potential to influence the development of students' gender-based attitudes at an impressionable age. The present study examines the problem of sexism in ESL materials used in Hong Kong secondary schools in terms of both gender roles and linguistic sexism. In view of the heightened awareness of the importance of gender equity in Hong Kong in recent years, we examine linguistic sexism from both a synchronic and a diachronic perspective. We investigate whether there has been any change in gender representation in recent textbooks and those used in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Using both quantitative and qualitative analyses, we investigate whether there is any tendency to omit females in verbal and pictorial texts. Other areas such as the order of appearance of males and females, depiction of the domestic, occupational and social roles of the two sexes, use of masculine generic constructions and naming conventions are also examined.