Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | The Power of Pronouns

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | The Power of Pronouns

Words are powerful. Names and pronouns, in particular, represent an important part of a person’s identity. LGBTQ+ colleagues are validated every time a colleague uses their appropriate pronoun. Inclusive employers send a strong signal to employees by asking and using their preferred pronouns.

Think how often pronouns are used in everyday conversation – in meetings, greetings, conversations, and emails.

Using the correct pronoun is a way to show respect to colleagues.
It says, “I see you.”

This can speak volumes to someone who may be misgendered regularly. Continually being misgendered can leave employees feeling angry, disrespected, and excluded.

The only way to identify someone’s correct pronouns is to ask them directly. It acknowledges that gender identity is not always visible and should not be assumed. Employers can update new hire forms and HRIS systems to allow individuals to select their gender identity and pronouns. If possible, expand the pronoun options in HRIS systems to include non-binary pronouns like they, “ze,” “zir,” and “zem” in addition to binary options. Another supportive move is to standardize pronoun use in company policies and communications. Instead of choosing “he” or “she,” select gender neutral pronouns like “they” and “everyone.”

Employers can set the example and offer education that invites all to use appropriate pronouns regularly. For example, including personal pronouns on LinkedIn profiles and email signatures tells others that the company sets a high value on inclusion. This practice can also extend into meetings by including pronouns in group introductions as standard protocol. This may sound like, “Let’s introduce ourselves by sharing preferred names and pronouns.” It is also helpful to educate staff on what to do in a situation when a colleague has been accidentally misgendered. Employees should be encouraged to advocate for their colleague, even when they are not present. This can be done by correcting the pronoun use in your response. For example, “He is not on time” could be met with the response, “They are running late today.” Alternatively, a simple, “Sally uses the she pronoun” also serves as a helpful reminder.

All employees want to feel accepted and respected at work. Asking employees how they would like to be addressed is a great first step to inviting LGBTQ+ employees to come to work as their full selves.

Originally featured in UBA’s July 2022 HR Elements Newsletter.


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