He said, she said, they said, we said, “Respect our pronouns.”
Employees have spoken and leaders are listening. Companies are looking for ways to cultivate diversity, inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace. In that spirit, a growing number of companies are putting a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community. One way to advocate for employees who identify as part of this community is by respecting gender choices and implementing programs for visibility around inclusive pronouns. This small change can have a big impact on people who may not conform to traditional gender norms.
What are pronouns?
According to Glsen, a national education organization working to ensure safe and inclusive schools for all, “Pronouns are the words you may like others to use for you in place of your proper name. Some examples include ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him’ or gender-neutral pronouns, such as ‘ze/hir,’ [pronounced: zee/heer] or ‘they/them’.” Gender neutral pronouns may sound a bit different to some, but making an effort to use them can have a huge impact in the lives of others.
For many years, it has been accepted that a person’s sex also reflects their gender. However, sex and gender are not interchangable terms. Sex refers to the biological characteristics a person is born with, while gender can be influenced by society, environment or biology. Gender is just one of the many aspects that make up who a person is, or their identity. Suppression of even one aspect of a person’s identity can cause psychological distress and struggle with knowing who they are.
According to The Trevor Project, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth, transgender youth who felt their chosen gender pronouns were used correctly and respected attempted suicide at half the rate of those who reported the opposite. Respecting gender identity in the workplace promotes an environment of safety and inclusivity for people identifying as trans or non-binary.
Why use inclusive pronouns in the workplace?
The workplace can be a difficult environment for individuals to find their identity, and, according to the Harvard Business Review, people who then have to suppress a portion of their identity, such as their gender, can find it even more difficult. A survey conducted by National Center for Transgender Equality found that 77 percent of transgender people holding a job the year prior took active steps to avoid mistreatment at work, such as hiding and suppressing their gender identity.
Everyone should feel that they can be themselves and feel safe at work. In an interview with Forbes, LGBT+ Inclusion Consultant Gina Battye says using pronouns in the workplace, “creates a safe space so everyone can bring their whole self to work, no longer needing to censor or hide parts of themselves. This leads to greater productivity, creativity and connection with colleagues and your organisational purpose.”
How to get started.
Research shows that creating an environment that respects and advocates for chosen pronouns can have a huge impact on an organization, and it’s easy to get started! The previously mentioned Harvard Business Review article notes that organizations can start by keeping records of employees’ chosen names and pronouns. This can be beneficial for more large scale administrative purposes, such as company-wide email communication.
Next, organizations can encourage employees to include their preferred pronouns on email signatures, name plates, business cards and social media profiles. When the UK’s Southbank Center asked their employees to include preferred pronouns to their emails, they had this to say, “Adding these words to your email signature has the practical benefit of making clear how you would like to be referred to, while also signaling to the recipient that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns. It is an effective way of normalising discussions about gender and creating an inclusive work environment for transgender and non-binary people.”
Lastly, organizations can continue to support employees in the LGBTQ+ community by being allies, advocating for organizational change and providing ongoing training for employees. According to Forbes, creating employee handbooks highlighting diversity and inclusion or participating in webinars and training workshops are great places to start.
Implementing and respecting preferred pronouns is just one way to help all employees feel respected and welcome in the workplace. As organizations work to build a more diverse and inclusive future for all, small steps can make a big difference.
For a full overview of how to advocate for the inclusive use of pronouns for all, check out Glsen’s guide here. Looking to advance your career with a welcoming employer? Medix is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion across our organization – and that starts with our teammates.