Each year, more employees are entering the workplace with gender identities that may differ from what we most frequently think of when discussing gender. Whether these employees choose to be open about their identity or not, it is important to create a work setting that welcomes diversity with open arms. 

With work settings becoming more diverse, there is an increased importance of using pronouns in the workplace than ever seen before. Not only does discussing pronouns benefit those with gender identities outside of the social norm, but it can create a more positive and welcoming place for everyone to work. 

Understanding the Importance of Pronouns

Gender pronouns (such as “she/her/hers” and “he/him/his”) are the way that we constantly refer to each other’s gender identity. We typically interpret a person’s gender based on their physical appearance and “assign” them a pronoun. However, our opinions may not be a correct interpretation of a person’s gender identity, and misgendering someone can be very harmful. It is important to note that there are many people who use non-gender pronouns such as they/them/their. Those who use non-gender pronouns are misgendered more frequently as they challenge the traditional idea that gender is dependent on physical appearance.  Regardless of someone’s gender identity, using a person’s personal pronouns is a form of mutual respect, courtesy, and validation. Just as you prefer to be called by the correct name and pronouns, transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive people like to as well.

How to Incorporate Pronouns in the Workplace

Misgendering someone can be embarrassing for both parties and can pose as a roadblock in business settings. It can create tension and lead to communication breakdowns across teams and with clients. If you are unsure about a person’s pronouns, ask. Below are all acceptable ways to bring up the topic:

  • My name is Amberly, and I go by she/her/hers pronouns.”  
  • “My name is Amberly and I go by she/her/hers pronouns. What pronouns do you use?”
  • “By the way, my pronouns are she/her/hers, what are yours?” 

In interviews and meetings, sharing your own pronouns can encourage other people to share their pronouns with you. Add your personal pronouns to your email signatures, name tags, and office name plates, all of which will help professionals in the workplace communicate correctly and effectively with you. Instagram, LinkedIn, and Indeed are examples of companies that are taking great steps towards inclusion efforts. Instagram and LinkedIn now have special locations to display your pronouns in your bio. Indeed released a commercial starring actor River Gallo, who uses they/them pronouns, that highlights the correct way to ask for pronouns in an interview setting. 

We all play a part

If you are a cisgender person, identifying with the gender assigned to you at birth, giving your pronouns demonstrates allyship to those who do not. This simple step goes a long way to those who are struggling silently. When you place pronouns in email signatures, social media bios, or name tags, you help normalize not assuming what someone else’s pronouns are. You help create a space where transgender, non-binary, gender expansive people feel safe to disclose their pronouns too. Most importantly, you challenge the idea that pronouns are an unnecessary topic of conversation, because to some, it means everything.

About the Author:

Amberly is a Junior studying Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Management. She currently serves as the Vice President of Chapter Development on the GVPRSSA Executive Board. Amberly is currently working as a Communications Assistant for Grand Valley’s Alumni Relations Office and hopes to work for a Chicago based PR firm after she graduates. For fun, Amberly loves writing, going thrifting, and watching cringey reality TV.