Using pronouns to be more inclusive


Many of us reflect on how far we have come to achieve gender equality. We demand and pursue equal pay for the sexes. We go after misogynists. We demand representation of women on boards and leadership teams. Today, many cisgender women see “he or she” in an employee handbook and recognize—perhaps even celebrate—the progress toward inclusivity those words represent.

But there are also many who experience the same milestones and advances in other ways.

We have yet to address an issue that requires both attention and action at this moment: HWe must create an environment of equity and inclusivity for all genders in our society. Or, to put it on a finer, more organizationally relevant point: how to create workplace cultures where transgender and gender-nonconforming colleagues feel welcome and safe so they can do their best work and have equal opportunities to reach their potential.

It’s not just about addressing the experiences of the current workforce. For example, recent legislation passed in Florida and Texas creates an environment of fear for non-binary students – while companies are silent. These students are the workforce of the future and we need to do better for them.

Forward-thinking leaders play a paramount role in reducing the passive spread of systemic bias. Instead, it is imperative for each of us to actively introduce and promote systemically Antibias. We still have a long way to go before we can create the kind of truly inclusive cultures that all employees deserve, and we have many obstacles to overcome, but there are steps we can take today to make a real difference.

Here’s how.

Normalize pronoun sharing across your organization

Pronouns—the verbal indicator of our gender—are a deep-seated aspect of our identity, just as important as our names. And although we offer our names so readily at the beginning of any communication, we tend to only pick up or learn pronouns in context. Offering our pronouns as directly and thoughtlessly as we offer our names is the logical first step toward true gender inclusion.

It’s important to note that normalizing pronoun sharing doesn’t mean that people simply “allow” their pronouns to be listed in, for example, their Zoom nameplate or email signature. It is indeed important that non-binary, transgender and gender non-conforming employees have an opportunity to remind their colleagues of their pronouns. But the opportunity to feel safe and belonging only really presents itself when pronoun sharing is mundane rather than ad hoc.

An important caveat here: it’s also important to keep in mind that not everyone knows their identity yet, and some people won’t feel comfortable sharing it. the, the are comfortable – especially executives – can and should exemplify this behavior, but never require it, as it embarrasses team members who may be less comfortable not being willing to share openly.

If everyone who feels comfortable makes the small effort to introduce themselves by name and pronoun each time, in addition to making their pronouns visible, we take the burden off underrepresented individuals so they can create their own safe spaces.

Start with systems

At the workplace of yore, we got to know our colleagues the old-fashioned way: small talk at the coffee machine, happy hour in the office, or bumping into each other while commuting. We memorized names by repetition (or by sneaking peeks at our colleagues’ badges when they weren’t looking). While there’s a lot missing from the old normal, our current, more digitized reality offers a huge opportunity when it comes to gender equality. Because while the way we interact now may not involve the mundane mundanity of office life, it does involve a constant visual reminder of everyone’s identity – so let’s make sure this includes pronouns.

Zoom and email signatures are a good place to start, but we shouldn’t leave the decision and implementation up to the individual—we need to systematize it. For example grid recently published a feature that automatically places pronouns at the top of your profile. With pronouns as a presetEmployees in any company that uses the grid platform have the opportunity to participate in this movement.

Your onboarding process is a great way to live that norm. Have each new hire add pronouns to relevant systems and communication channels on day one. Train your managers to ensure compliance with this company policy (and understand why this policy exists).

Remember that culture comes from above

It’s up to leaders to lead by example to actually change behavior across the organization. Whenever and wherever you say your name, share your pronouns. every time It’s as simple as, “Hi, my name is Julia and my pronouns are she/they.” Those six extra words can promote the safety and well-being of all employees.

Make pronoun sharing part of manager training so that it is normalized across teams to share pronouns both internally (e.g. all employees) and externally (e.g. in meetings with clients, agencies, board members, etc.). . Work with your communications team to ensure pronouns are included in assets like style guides and email templates.

The past few years have undoubtedly been turbulent, but out of that turmoil have also come opportunities. We’ve seen organizations embrace new philosophies and new practices, from hybrid work to mental health services. Amidst these reactive changes, why not create a proactive one as well: Pronoun sharing is something we can all do today to make the world a more inclusive, just and safer place for all people.

As leaders in the workforce, we have an opportunity to bolster each other systemically, in addition to individual efforts, to break away from traditional approaches to gender identity. The more we normalize the proactive identification of pronouns and the more visible we make that norm, the more we will do so everything benefit on our way to become better people.

Julia Markisch is the director of Lattice Advisory Services. Using pronouns to be more inclusive


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