Using the proper gender pronouns is an important part of creating an inclusive workplace. The use of proper gender pronouns helps to create more inclusive working environments for those with a variety of different gender identities. Using the proper gender pronouns can include actions such as:
- Addressing groups of people using gender-neutral terms.
- Using your colleagues’ preferred pronouns.
- Including your own preferred pronouns in communications.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many large companies are beginning to incorporate the use of proper gender pronouns in their regular business operations. This is a move that reflects our society’s shift towards more equality and inclusion for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is important for the success of any company. The world is full of people from so many different walks of life, and welcoming different types of people means that a company is also welcoming different types of creative thinking and ways of living. Diversity is what a company needs to thrive and succeed in the modern marketplace.
Include your own pronouns in digital signatures
One way to ensure that you are using the proper gender pronouns in the workplace is to include your own pronouns more frequently. You can include your pronouns in digital communication channels and emails. For example, your email signature can include your name, your position at the company and your preferred pronouns.
Using your own pronouns more frequently can start a positive chain reaction and encourage others to do the same. As with any change that you, as a leader, wish to make within your company, you will need to lead by example — no matter what kind of manager you are.
Including your pronouns in a non-digital setting is also an option. If you are at a conference or meeting that requires name tags, consider writing your preferred pronouns underneath your name so that others are aware and can speak accordingly. Doing so may inspire other attendees to follow your example and include their own pronouns.
Use gender-neutral language in meetings
One way to promote more inclusion in the workplace is to use gender-neutral language in a meeting or general workspace. Using phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen” can exclude those with other gender identities. Some examples of alternative terms and phrases that you could use include:
- Everyone/everybody: This is a general term that can be used anywhere.
- Y’all/you guys: These are regional terms that are specific to certain parts of the country.
- Folks/friends: More colloquial and casual references, these may be best used in smaller group meetings.
- Colleagues: This option is highly professional and is a great way to address a group of people you don’t know personally but are working with professionally.
Being creative and conscious of how you address a group can help to create a more positive work environment and an inclusive company culture. Addressing a group in a gender-neutral way can make people of all gender identities feel welcome and more open to expressing their ideas and concerns.
Practice using the right pronouns to prevent mistakes
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun when referring to someone, then there are important steps you should take. Start by correcting yourself, then apologize to the other person. Finally, understand that you may need to practice correct pronoun usage for the future in order to help your employees or coworkers feel more comfortable and included. If needed, ask for clarification on the person’s preferred pronouns so that you know for future conversations.
If someone in your workplace goes by a pronoun that you are having trouble remembering, then practice their pronoun at home and in conversation so that you don’t make further mistakes. While this may take extra time and effort, it is your responsibility to address people with their preferred pronouns and create a welcoming environment for people of all gender identities within your company.
Try not to use specific pronouns if someone has not told you what their preferred pronouns are. You cannot assume someone’s pronouns by what their appearance is on the outside. Just because someone dresses in a feminine manner, that does not mean that their preferred pronoun is “she.” Just because someone dresses in a more masculine manner, that does not mean that their preferred pronoun is “he.” Gender identity is complex and specific to the individual.
If you are interested in learning the pronouns of those around you, one easy way to do so is to include your own pronouns when introducing yourself. If you are leading a group project, you can encourage everyone to say their name and pronouns at the beginning. This allows everyone to vocally express their preferred pronouns at the beginning of the meeting or conversation and can help prevent future confusion or mistakes.
If you must use a pronoun and you do not know the preferred pronouns of the people in the room, you can always ask them directly
, or use a gender-neutral pronoun, such as “they.”
Show respect toward others’ choices
When in doubt, always revert back to the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. If you wish to have other people respect your pronouns, you must do so in return.
When someone tells you their preferred pronouns, make a concentrated effort to use those preferred pronouns in every situation. No matter your personal, religious or political beliefs, you should show respect toward others’ choices. No matter who the other person is, respecting their chosen pronoun is one small way that you can help to create a positive work environment.
If someone corrects you regarding their chosen pronouns, or if someone changes their preferred pronoun to better reflect their gender identity, do not question or undermine their choice. Simply show them the respect they deserve and use their preferred pronoun in future conversations.
Training resources for using pronouns in the workplace
If you are an employer or an employee who is interested in learning more about pronouns in the workplace, there are several training and education resources available, including:
- Human Rights Campaign Foundation: “Talking Pronouns in the Workplace” training.
- ACON Pride Training: “Pronouns 101” class.
- Harvard Business Review: “How to Talk About Pronouns at Work” visual guide.
- Out & Equal: “What’s Your Pronouns? Strategies for Inclusion in the Workplace” guide
- Stonewall: “A beginner’s guide to pronouns and using pronouns in the workplace” article.
Another way to expand your knowledge is to enroll in professional development courses. There, you can take a deeper dive into the correct use of pronouns and the importance of diversity and inclusion in any business setting.
Using proper gender pronouns in the workplace is a small but vitally important part of creating an inclusive and welcoming company culture that is open to people of all identities and backgrounds. Taking the time to educate yourself and practice using the correct pronouns in different situations can help to change the level of inclusivity for everyone.