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Gender Affirming Pronouns in the Workplace

Happy PRIDE month! Here at Silver Key Career Solutions, all of our team members strive to be inclusive, welcoming, and a safe place for all of our LGBTQ+ clients. We work closely with our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion consultant, Denitresse Ferrell, to ensure our team members are up-to-date and familiar with the best practices on how to support our clients.

Many companies are now encouraging their employees to include pronouns in their email signatures and adding pronouns to name badges to help destigmatize using and asking for pronouns. You may be asking yourself, why do I need to use my pronouns, it’s obvious I am male/female. When you include pronouns you are intentionally making space for transgender, gender nonconforming, and gender non-binary people. Including pronouns is the first step toward respecting other people’s gender identities, working against cisnormativity, and creating a more welcoming space for all genders.

“How is this more inclusive?” you may ask. People’s pronouns relate to their gender identity. For example, someone who identifies as a woman may use “she/her.” Typically, gender identity is shown through hairstyles, clothing, mannerisms, etc… and by acknowledging pronouns you are not assuming gender identity through gender expression. When you acknowledge pronouns, you demonstrate that you are not assuming what their gender identity is based on their appearance. If this is the first time you are considering your own gender pronouns, take a moment to reflect on the privilege of having an identity that is the same as the sex you were assigned at birth.

Do you have to share your gender pronouns? Absolutely not. Providing space for people to share their pronouns does not mean that everyone feels comfortable or needs to share their pronouns. Some people may choose not to share their pronouns for a variety of reasons such as they may be transitioning or questioning their own pronouns, they don’t use or relate to or even like any pronouns, or they may not feel safe at that moment or time due to fear of being bullied or harassed after sharing them. If someone has left their pronouns off their name badge, consider only addressing them by name as much as possible.

Including pronouns in emails and on name badges is an easy and subtle way to affirm safe space for all gender identities. The next step is to begin using your pronouns when introducing yourself to others. You’re used to introducing yourself by saying, “Hello! I’m Glenda. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Try stepping it up a notch by saying, “Hello! I’m Glenda. My pronouns are she/her. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The more you practice, the more natural this will feel, and the more inclusive you will be. Another way to be inclusive is to begin meetings, especially with new people, by having everyone go around introducing themselves and providing their pronouns. Having name plates, even temporary ones, that include names and pronouns can be very helpful as well.

Hopefully, you now have more of an understanding on the importance of providing your pronouns to help your LGBTQ+ co-workers & employees feel welcome, safe, and included. If you’d like to have more information, please seek out transgender and non-bionary blog writers and professional development leaders to learn more about their lived experience with pronouns. You will also find more links below as well.

Finally, check out this fun easter egg from Google. Go to Google sheets and type in one letter of PRIDE into each column in row one and then hit tab! The whole sheet will turn into a colorful rainbow.

Pronouns Matter
Duke University Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity