Pronouns are the words we used to refer to a person based on their gender, such as she/her or he/him. Not everybody uses the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, transgender people’s sex and gender identity do not correspond so they choose to give themselves the pronouns of their gender. Or some people do not feel strictly male or female and may prefer to use the neutral terms they/them.
There is a growing trend for staff stating their pronouns in ordinary workspaces such as on email signatures and in meetings. Sharing your gender pronouns is a straightforward way to create an environment that is more inclusive of people of all genders and transgender staff. You cannot assume a person’s gender by simply looking at them. Therefore by giving people the chance to share their pronouns, everyone can state which gender they identify without the preconception of appearance.
Whether your gender identity is the same as the one you were assigned at birth or not, you might want to introduce a culture of sharing pronouns in your office or workplace. For many people, pronouns will be a new concept, and therefore, it may take some explanation and education for them to understand why it is essential. This is not a reason not to try and create an environment where every person can express who they are and be respected for it by others.
Five tips for introducing pronouns into the workplace
Don’t assume everyone understands pronouns immediately
Suppose you are somebody who has previously been in environments where pronouns are shared and discussed. In that case, it can be easy to forget that not everybody will be accustomed to the concept of using pronouns like you. Take the time to share with people why you think it’s important and give them time to adjust.
Lead by example
One of the easiest ways to encourage other people to share their pronouns is by leading by example and sharing your own. When introducing yourself to somebody, you can tell them your name and which pronouns you use, for example, “Hi, nice to meet you my name is Tom, I use they/them pronouns”, or “Hello I am Sammi I use she/her pronouns”.
Ask other people what pronouns they use
Leading on from this, you can ask people what pronouns they use instead of assuming them based on their appearance or your judgment of them. When meeting somebody new, you could say, “Hi, nice to meet you. I am Sarah; I use she/her pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” This helps show other people that you don’t assume a person’s pronouns by looking at them.
Speak to your employers about adding them to documents and emails
An effortless way to formalise sharing pronouns is by adding them to documents that everyone uses, such as email signatures. You can ask your manager whether they would be okay allowing people to put their pronouns in emails, then nobody has to ask or assume what pronouns somebody uses. And it minimises the risk of someone being misgendered.
Offer to run training and education sessions
Suppose there are people in your workplace who struggle to adapt to using pronouns or don’t understand what they are for. In that case, you could offer to run some informal training sessions on understanding gender identity and how to use inclusive language. If you don’t feel comfortable giving them yourself, you can ask your manager to consider bringing in somebody external to provide the training.