What is gender identity?
Gender identity is how individuals think about themselves. It expresses who we are on the gender spectrum, a term used to include folks of all identities. Understanding gender identity is the first step to understanding and caring for others, especially in the workplace.
Why pronouns matter?
Trans and gender non-conforming people face discrimination in the workplace from the hiring and onboarding process to assimilating into the culture of a company to job retention. Companies that haven’t cultivated a diverse staff, inclusive work environment, or provided resources for both non-conforming individuals and/or colleagues seeking more learning opportunities are at higher risk of discriminating folks of different identities. If employees are worried about hiding their identity for fear of being fired then employers aren’t giving a fair opportunity to marginalized folks to be part of the team.
Just because a company practices using pronouns office-wide or updates policy doesn’t mean people who identify outside of the cis-hetero-norm aren’t facing discrimination. Everyone has inherent bias they have learned and need to unlearn. Building a truly inclusive work environment means the whole team is on board. Adapting pronouns into the culture of a company is a small step to say “Hey, we see you and are so happy to have you here!”
Who does this impact?
Everyone! Not just genderqueer/non-binary folks face the impacts of pronouns. Names from different cultures, traditionally feminine and/or masculine names can get misgendered. Just because you identify your gender to your biological sex doesn’t mean you can’t use your pronouns when introducing yourself. “Hi, I’m Jane, she/her, and I work in the mailroom. Nice to meet you.” Notice, Jane just tucked in “she/her” next to her name and because she does this with everyone, she avoids singling out folks and also makes room for others to express themselves more freely.
How to go from avoiding to promoting
In order to avoid singling people out, adjust the beginning of meetings to include pronoun use. Use they/them with everyone until you know a person’s preferred pronouns, provide a place for people to mark their identity discreetly. Not everyone wants to be asked or to be put on the spot.
Gendered language (ladies and gents, sir, mam) → Gender neutral language (everyone, people, folks, teammates) is a great way to welcome everyone!
Misgendering → Practicing they/them on your own time, listen to when people tell you who they are, correct yourself and do better next time. Be sure to not center your apology for misgendering around you, use the right ones next time.
Assuming → Unless you are using your active listening skills and have picked up on another’s pronouns it is better to not assume. Just use the person’s name, use they/them for all or if it’s something you do with everyone, ask.
Ways to Take Direct Action
Update your forms for applicants and new hires. If the HR team or management team is using the right pronouns without a flutter, others can pick up on a new hires’ pronouns without singling anyone out.
“Hey everyone! We want to welcome Pat. We are thrilled to have them join the team.”
Inclusivity training for new hires and ongoing company enrichment meetings. Set the standard and expectations for an inclusive workforce from the beginning and continue building on this in all trainings.
Identify a point of contact person for topics like gender identity and inclusivity. Whether or not you have a designated HR person on your team, there should be someone in the office to be able to hold the company accountable, hold space and offer your whole staff guidance as you continue to build your welcoming space. It shouldn’t be up to the marginalized employee to be a spokesperson for their group.
Discretion. Make sure that any onboarding has a private place for folks to self-identify. Not everyone wants to be asked pronouns or be put on the spot.
Encourage or require email signatures.
Jane Smith (she/her) ← link to the premier pronoun policy
Signage. Desk nameplates with pronouns, ID badges and on business cards is a good start.
Make the physical space inclusive. Bathrooms are a good place to start. Do you have gender-neutral bathrooms? If they aren’t single-occupant there are ways to make them inclusive for everyone to use. Are there sanitary napkins in both the “men” and “women” restrooms? Private stalls in both?
Mindful accountability. It will take the whole staffing team to build an inclusive workplace. Sometimes mistakes are made. Make sure your team feels comfortable pointing out areas for improvement and can call people into action.
“Hey Tim, I noticed you misgendered Pat, our new hire. Don’t forget to use they/them.”
“Thanks for the reminder, Jane!”
Zero tolerance. Your company should be clear on its bullying, harassment and discrimination policies. While we can work on shifting our language and making the space welcoming through direct action, it should be clear where the line is drawn. Again, having a point of contact in the office that is trained on this topic and others like it will be an invaluable component to keeping the workplace safe.
Employees who are transgender and gender non-conforming are faced with bias’s regularly. It is harder for folks outside societal norms to land their job’s and once they do join the team they face environments that haven’t put the thought into welcoming them. There is fear in losing jobs based on one’s identity. We can’t imagine performing at our best if we were always worried about hiding our authentic selves.
You can also read more about How to Develop and Inclusive Company Culture or Why Diversity in the Workplace is Beneficial. If your office needs more resources, we at Premier are here to help.