Market access update
International Pronoun Day: The importance of using gender pronouns in our workplaces
International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.
As part of its strategy to maintain and develop its inclusive workplaces, PRMA Consulting, a member of Fishawack Health, invited Sheena Amin-Liebman (she/her), Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Fishawack Health, to explain the importance of using gender pronouns in the workplace and how colleagues can implement gender inclusive language at work.
What are gender pronouns?
Gender pronouns are a way to refer to one another’s gender identity, for example ‘he/she/they’. Using somebody’s personal pronouns in and out of the workplace is a basic courtesy, and everyone deserves to have this respected. I believe that pronouns and gender identity are important considerations within a positive and inclusive workplace.
Why it is important we use the correct pronouns when communicating with our colleagues
If a person has never had to worry about which pronouns to use, gender pronouns might not seem that important. I think some people may be wondering why we need International Pronoun Day because it’s not part of their experience.
But the point is, for people who are constantly questioned or misgendered, the experience can leave them feeling excluded and alienated because you can’t always tell what someone’s gender pronouns are by looking at them.
Having to correct others who misgender you is exhausting for transgender and non-binary people, in the same way it is for other marginalized groups. It’s exhausting for us to deal with microaggressions in the same manner.
For me, it is all about strengthening our diverse and inclusive workplaces. Asking for, remembering, and using someone’s gender pronouns is a positive way to support the colleagues you work with and to encourage an inclusive environment.
3 ways organizations can introduce gender pronouns into their workplaces
There is always more work to be done when it comes to inclusivity, but a great place to start is to change some very basic things in our ways of working.
A very easy way for organizations to introduce gender pronouns into the conversation is to include them in e-mail signatures. The action serves not only as a reminder internally, but also builds awareness externally as well. I think adding gender pronouns to your company emails is a great first step to building gender inclusivity in the workplace.
At Fishawack Health, we use an e-mail signature generator; you put in your name, your title, your time zone, and your pronouns. It’s a really easy way for colleagues to display how they want to be addressed.
Another easy way to introduce gender pronouns is if you’re doing an introduction or an icebreaker at a new meeting: you can say ‘Tell us your name, the capability you work in and, if you’re comfortable, your gender pronoun’ – it gives people the opportunity, if they feel safe and comfortable enough to do so, to speak up and share part of their identity with you.
Having conversations is a third way to bring awareness of the importance of gender pronouns and encourage change. Our diversity, equity, and inclusion employee network groups have been leading conversations, lunch and learns, and making sure that pronouns feature in our townhalls. For example, talking about Roe versus Wade and discussing how we didn’t talk about a specific gender – we just talked about how that will affect all humans, a colleague said ‘Yes, I’ve been wanting to change my pronouns, but this has encouraged me to really do it.’
How do colleagues use gender inclusive language in our workplaces?
Gender-inclusive language paves the way for a healthy work culture where everyone feels accepted and safe and empowers transgender, gender nonconforming, and gender non-binary people to present their true selves at work without fear.
To be more inclusive, I encourage colleagues to practice, even if it is something as simple as using language such as ‘Hi folks/Hi team/Hi everyone’ when addressing each other, rather than ‘Hi guys’. It’s more about making sure that all the participants on a call or e-mail feel acknowledged.
Another example of gender inclusive language you can use in the workplace is swapping out ‘he/she’ with ‘they’. For example, if a colleague wishes to go on vacation, don’t say: ‘He or she must schedule it two weeks in advance.’ Instead, use language such as ‘They must schedule it two weeks in advance.’
Using gender pronouns is one step towards strengthening diversity and inclusivity at work
It is satisfying to a level but that’s not even about work, it’s about connecting with people on a human level, and so that has been one of my proudest moments of working at Fishawack Health.
Helping colleagues to bring their whole self to work is our common goal, I encourage colleagues to get to a point where we can take off our corporate masks and be ourselves. Introducing and ensuring we have gender inclusive language is one of the first steps to do that.
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