More and more employees are entering the workforce with varying gender identities. Defined as “an individual’s personal sense of having a particular gender” by the Oxford dictionary, gender identity is based on someone’s internal sense of self and isn’t always a visible expression. Gender pronouns are how people refer to themselves to reflect their gender identity. The most common gender pronouns are she/her, he/him, and they/them but there are many others as well.
For example, while someone may have been assigned female at birth, they may identify as male and therefore use the gender pronouns he/him. Other people may refer to themselves as genderqueer, gender fluid, or non-binary and prefer they/them. Most, if not all, workplaces are happy to refer to someone as their nickname or preferred name, but pronouns have become just as important for creating an inclusive workplace.
Why is it Important to Learn and Use People’s Correct Pronouns?
As the Human Rights Campaign Foundation puts it, “Nothing may be more personal than the way in which people refer to us through our name and pronouns. Using a person’s chosen name and desired pronouns is a form of mutual respect and basic courtesy. Everyone deserves to have their self-ascribed name and pronouns respected in the workplace.”
Especially considering that gender identity is not always visible and is an internal sense of gender, misgendering coworkers can be hurtful, disrespectful, embarrassing (for both parties), and create tension in the workplace.
Taking the time to learn and properly use the correct pronouns ensures a sense of respect, normalizes conversations around gender diversity, and no one is left guessing or making assumptions.
How Can I Create a More Gender-Inclusive Workplace?
It’s important for people in leadership roles to establish clear guidelines around using pronouns. This creates a culture of inclusion and takes the burden off of non-binary and LGBTQ+ employees.
A few of the ways to identify and respect people’s preferred pronouns in the workplace include:
- Create a field on the application for pronouns
- Include pronouns when introducing new employees
- Add pronouns to emails/professional social sites/messaging networks
- Add pronouns to the employee directory
- Offer the option to add pronouns to name badges
- Use neutral greetings (“Hello everyone!” vs. “Hi guys!”)
- Say “thank you” if someone corrects you on their pronouns and practice using the proper pronouns
- If you aren’t sure, ask!
- Share your pronouns first to make the other person feel more comfortable sharing theirs
For more information about pronouns in the workplace, we recommend:
- Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace (Human Rights Campaign Foundation)
- Why Pronouns Matter for Trans People (YouTube)