Why gender pronouns matter (especially in the workplace)
For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, choosing preferred gender pronouns is an essential part of the coming out process. These preferred pronouns are an important part of their identities, so using the wrong terms can be hurtful or offensive. Intentionally misgendering a coworker is the equivalent of making a hateful comment, such as calling someone ugly or stupid. Refusing to use gender pronouns does not encourage equality in the workplace.
Binary gender pronouns stem from the belief that there are only two genders: male and female. Nonbinary gender pronouns reference the spectrum of genders that are not exclusively feminine or masculine. An employee who identifies as nonbinary or enby may have preferred pronouns such as ey, they or ze.
Using correct gender pronouns in the workplace shows that you respect employees and clients, but it also promotes an inclusive environment. Failing to use someone’s preferred pronouns can make them feel as if you do not value their identity, or worse yet, like you do not believe gender nonconforming individuals exist.
It’s vital that you promote diversity and show every employee you appreciate them, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. It’s also important that workers who identify as nonbinary are treated the same as binary employees, as inequality in the workplace does not just affect those who identify as male or female.
Examples of gender pronouns and how to use them
Binary gender pronouns describe masculine or feminine individuals and include he/she and his/her. Nonbinary gender pronouns do not indicate someone is male or female. Instead, they show an individual is on the gender spectrum.
When using preferred pronouns, make sure you understand the object, possessive and reflexive forms as well as the subject. We’ve listed several different pronouns below, each beginning with the subject and ending with the reflexive form.
Here are some nonbinary pronouns you may encounter:
- Name only; no pronoun
When a worker states they have no pronoun, simply use their name where you’d normally use a term such as he, she or they.
Here is an example:
Lucas bought soup for lunch because Lucas loves soup.
In this example, Lucas is used twice rather than being replaced by a gender pronoun later in the sentence.
Don’t skip salutations
In the business world, combining a salutation with a person’s last name is often considered polite. Traditionally, we’ve used the following salutations:
These pronouns all indicate the binary gender of an employee or client. However, an individual with preferred pronouns other than he or she may request that you use a different salutation.
Examples of nonbinary titles include:
- Mx, pronounced “mix” or “mux”
This is not a full list of nonbinary titles, so don’t assume your employee uses one of these terms.
How to make opportunities to ask or offer gender pronouns in the workplace
Normalize the use of gender pronouns in the workplace by making it easy for employees to share them. Ensure there are numerous opportunities for workers to request or offer preferred pronouns.
Here are a couple suggestions:
1. Let employees create custom email signatures.
This isn’t just for nonbinary workers. Gender conformists can also include their pronouns so there is no confusion.
A nonbinary worker’s email signature may look like this:
Mx Makenzie Mikelson
Here is a binary worker’s email signature:
Mr. Matthew Jacobs
2. Introduce yourself using pronouns
During meetings, introduce yourself using your pronouns and request that others do the same.
“Hello! My name is Latoya Jefferson, and my pronouns are she/her. Please share your name, position and if comfortable, your pronouns.”
Don’t pressure employees to provide pronouns, but let everyone know your team respects workers who are nonbinary. Provide and request pronouns at every meeting, even if you have shared them in the past.
Every employee deserves to feel respected and valued. Normalize gender pronouns in the workplace so your entire team understands the importance of maintaining an inclusive environment.