Gender Pronouns


You may have noticed preferred pronouns included in email signatures more frequently, or more options than “male” or “female” when signing up for a new app. This is because gender is not binary, it is a spectrum of various identities. A person’s pronouns relate to their gender identity or their choice in how they name their gender. This may or may not differ from sex assigned at birth, but that’s not our business.

Including pronouns when introducing yourself or in an email signature is a way to show mutual respect for others’ gender identity. One of the many benefits of this practice is to invite gender non-conforming (gnc) individuals to feel more comfortable in identifying their pronouns and to normalize the conversation across the board. When we do this with everyone we meet it reduces the chances of making others feel like they are being put on the spot. It also creates an inclusive environment for all.

Using pronouns in email signatures, name tags, and introductions decreases the chances of misgendering a person. Misgendering is when someone uses the wrong pronouns for another individual. The act of misgendering is very hurtful to the person who has been misgendered. If this happens one should acknowledge the mistake with a simple yet authentic apology, not put the mistake on the misgendered person and make sure the misgendering doesn’t continue to happen.

Here are some tips on how to incorporate gender-neutral language into your everyday life, from the experts at GLSEN – an organization whose mission is to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

  • If you feel comfortable, introduce yourself with your pronouns as a model. For example: “Hi, I’m Anjelique. I use she/her and they/them pronouns” or “I’m Milo, and I use they/them pronouns.”
  • Practice, practice, practice! Use gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” and “ze” while visualizing the person who uses them.
  • Whenever possible, take the lead from the transgender and GNC individuals around you to align with others’ norms.
  • Welcome feedback, and be ready to make adjustments as you continue to make your spaces more inclusive: “If you have any feedback for us on how to make this DEI Task Force a more welcoming space for transgender, gender nonconforming and gender non-binary people, please let us know!”
  • When addressing groups of people or people whose pronouns you haven’t been told, use gender-neutral language such as, “friends,” “folks,” “all,” or “y’all,” rather than “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am,” or “sir.” We also suggest using the person’s name rather than pronouns until you know.

How else can you ask or offer pronouns in the workplace? (From Human Rights Campaign)

  • Interviewing & Onboarding process: Create a place to declare preferred name and pronouns. Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are driven by legal name. Creating an opportunity to disclose preferred names is a recommended best practice not only for transgender people, but for anyone who uses a preferred (or “nick”) name. Use these as basis of introducing new employees
  • Corporate social networks or platforms: Allow employees to self-ID preferred name and pronouns as part of their profile.
  • Make offering personal pronoun part of introduction process at the start of meetings or events.
    Example: “We’re going to go around the room to introduce ourselves. Please say your name, the department you work in and, if you want, your personal pronouns.” “My name is John Smith. I work in Quality Control. My pronouns are they, them, theirs.”
  • Role model appropriate pronoun when introducing people to their new workgroup
    Example: “Everyone I am pleased to introduce John Smith who is transferring over from Quality Control. They will be the lead person on the new product development project.”

Want to know more? Here are some additional resources related to gender identity, diversity and pronouns:

Podcast: “Pronoun Power” by Call Your Girlfriend

Resource: LGBTQ Glossary of Terms

Article: Designing Forms for Gender Diversity & Inclusion

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