Pondering whether or not to put your pronouns in your work email signature or your LinkedIn bio? Wondering how you should approach this topic with your staff and/or colleagues? You aren’t alone.
The topic of pronouns and how to appropriately incorporate them into the workplace is of hot debate right now. We are seeing an increase in lawsuits and divisive cases to do with the use of pronouns in both academic and workplace settings. As a result, the answer to how to use pronouns appropriately seems to be blurred for many people.
Beyond all politics, the most important thing is that we are able to create safe, accessible working environments for everyone who works in any place of employment. Regardless of personal opinion, creating safety for members of the trans and non-binary communities should be of the utmost importance for all companies. Appropriately using pronouns in the workplace is just one of the ways to do this.
Let’s discuss in more detail how to do this and why it is so important in the first place.
Why Do Pronouns Matter?
What isn’t a blurred case is the state of affairs for trans and gender non-binary people in the U.K. right now. A lot of hurt and disappointment has stemmed from the recent announcement that conversion therapy for gay and bisexual people will be banned but not so for trans people. This kind of hurt is nothing new for trans people in the U.K. either; Stonewall’s findings in “LGBT in Britain: Trans Report” state that 2 in 5 trans people and 3 in 10 non-binary people have experienced a hate crime due to their gender identity in the last year.
This discrimination leaks into the world of work too, with Stonewall’s report also finding that half of trans and non-binary people have “hidden or disguised” their gender identity at work due to the fear of discrimination. Given the fact that the Government Equalities Office estimates there to be 200,000-500,000 trans people in the U.K., this is a lot of people living in fear of being discriminated against in their place of work.
Pronouns are just one part of gender identity and gender expression but they are a very important part. How we refer to someone, both to their face and behind it, can affirm or deny their own identity. If we deny someone the opportunity to be seen how they want to and deserve to be seen, we can very negatively impact their mental health and lives in general.
Having pronouns set out in clear, visible ways such as in LinkedIn bios, email signatures, social media bios, and so on, helps to reduce the number of times that trans and non-binary people are misgendered within the workplace, something that is a harmful and hurtful microaggression. As Jeff Ingold, head of media at Stonewall, said in an interview with HR magazine, correctly gendering someone is also simply a case of basic manners; “it’s about letting someone know that you respect who they are.”
You wouldn’t call someone by the wrong name every day and expect it to be ok. So, why would it be any different with pronouns?
“I Am Cisgender… Why Do I Need Pronouns in My Bio?”
There is one simple answer to this question: allyship.
Being an ally means, “an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group”, according to the Anti-Oppression Network.
What this means, essentially, is that it doesn’t matter that you aren’t trans, it matters that you want to operate in solidarity with trans people so that they can feel safer and happier at work.
When you put your pronouns in your bio, you are normalising the use of pronouns. You are giving people the respect they deserve by allowing them the space to be who they are. This means that, while you might not think you need it personally, you are making it easier for a trans or non-binary person to put their pronouns in their bio.
Being an ally at work is hugely important and not something that should be underestimated.
How Can You Proactively and Appropriately Use Pronouns in the Workplace?
Now that we know why we want to do this, we need to do how to do it.
Here are some of the practical and tangible ways you can make pronouns visible and accessible at work:
- Put your pronouns in your bio! For example, John Smith (He/Him/His). It’s as simple as that. If you do it, it is easier for everyone else to do it too. It cuts down on potential misgendering and it opens the conversation.
- Make it easy for people to declare their pronouns so you can start on the right foot. Include an option in starting forms or ask the direct question in a starter interview, for example.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t sure, “What pronouns do you use?” is not an offensive question and can make a lot of people far more comfortable.
- Include pronouns in name tags if you use them as part of a uniform.
- Refer to people as they/them (gender-neutral pronouns) if you are not sure what they do use yet. Don’t lead with pronouns you are guessing due to physical appearance or stereotypes.
- Use pronouns and make them visible, but follow up with real inclusion too, nothing “inauthentic” is good enough for real equality. Run learning opportunities and training sessions for true equality. Hold people accountable for any inappropriate behaviour. Proactively create an environment of safety and inclusion through consistent action. Pronouns alone aren’t enough.
To Sum Up
Pronouns are important. Using them appropriately can make a huge difference in the lives of trans and gender non-binary people.
We have a long way to go if we want to reach true equality for LGBTQ+ people but making pronouns visible and accessible is a great starting point.
So, if you want to know if you should put your pronouns in your bio, the answer is yes, absolutely.
We can all work together to make workplaces safer and happier for everyone, in both big and small ways. It’s all about showing up and doing your best.
For more guidance on how to keep your workplace diverse, inclusive, and safe or to find such workplaces to work in, follow us on social media or get in touch directly for more information.