Educating your employees on pronoun sharing, and encouraging them to participate, can help you build a more welcoming and inclusive workplace.
Been noticing something new in email signatures these days? Have you been coming across more instances of seeing she/her, he/him, and they/them after people’s names? Welcome to the world of pronoun sharing!
The whole idea of pronoun sharing is to avoid assuming someone’s pronouns based on things like appearance, and misgendering them in the process. This is an event that can be harmful and traumatic for transgender people and others who are nonbinary or otherwise gender nonconforming.
Regularly and routinely sharing pronouns in all situations — but especially in digital settings like email when readers often have little besides a name to go off of — can not only help avoid misgendering people, but also help normalize the process of proactively sharing pronouns. This helps create a more inclusive environment for all and can make it easier for others to share theirs without singling out individual people or communities.
Whether this is new information for you, or you’re trying to figure out how to help your employees learn about pronoun sharing, here you’ll find the basics of pronouns and pronoun sharing.
The whole idea of pronoun sharing is to avoid assuming someone’s pronouns based on things like appearance, and misgendering them in the process.
What are the different pronouns people use and how do they share them?
The pronouns that people most often use are she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs. However, they’re often mixed together (she/they for example) and used in other ways, so the most important thing is to politely ask people what their pronouns are.
One way to make people feel comfortable sharing their pronouns is to share yours when you introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Cinnamon and I use she/her pronouns.” When it comes to others, the University of California, Davis’ LGBTQIA Resource Center recommends simply asking politely. Now sure how? Here are some questions you can ask:
- “Can I ask what pronouns you use?”
- “Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns?”
- “When I refer to you, what pronouns should I use?”
It’s best to avoid asking people what their “preferred” pronouns are since it suggests an element of choice or flexibility that can infringe on the validity of someone’s identity.
How can I help my employees learn about pronoun sharing?
Next, there are several things you can do to encourage pronoun sharing at work. You can encourage employees to put their pronouns in their email signatures and include them on company bios, business cards, and other information you share.
You can further normalize pronoun sharing by starting meetings and other scenarios that require introductions by including your pronouns after your introduction — something like this: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe, CEO, and I use they/them pronouns.”
While embarrassment can lead some to profuse apologizing, drawing too much attention to the situation can put the person who was misgendered in an uncomfortable position.
Another thing to communicate to employees is that accidentally using the wrong pronouns can happen. If anyone finds themselves in this situation, the best thing to do is apologize, use the pronoun that you meant to use or that you know is correct, and move on without dwelling too much on it or making too big of a deal out of it.
While embarrassment can lead some to profuse apologizing, drawing too much attention to the situation can put the person who was misgendered in an uncomfortable position. It’s best to acknowledge, apologize, and move on.
Should I enact policies around pronoun sharing?
While you should certainly encourage any employees who are comfortable with sharing their pronouns to do so, it’s probably not a good idea to mandate pronoun sharing. This is because it can make people who are not quite ready or willing to share their identity in the workplace uncomfortable.
Encouragement and leading by example are often best practices when it comes to pronoun sharing. The whole idea is to be inclusive and welcoming of diversity of all kinds, not to pressure or rush anyone into anything that they’re uncomfortable with.