Are you noticing anything new in email signatures these days? Have you come across more cases where you saw she/her, he/him and she/she behind people’s names? Welcome to the world of pronoun sharing!
The whole idea of pronoun sharing is to avoid taking one’s pronouns based on things like appearance, and misunderstanding them in the process. This is an event that can be harmful and traumatic for transgender and others that are non-binary or otherwise gender non-conforming.
Sharing pronouns regularly and routinely in all situations — but especially in digital environments like email when readers often have little else but a name to go by — can help not only avoid gender mismatches, but also speed up the process. to proactively normalize parts of pronouns. This helps create a more inclusive environment for everyone and can make it easier for others to share theirs without distinguishing individual people or communities.
Whether this is new information to you, or you’re trying to figure out how to help your employees learn pronoun sharing, here’s the basics of pronoun sharing and pronoun sharing.
The whole idea of pronoun sharing is to avoid taking one’s pronouns based on things like appearance, and misunderstanding them in the process.
What are the different pronouns people use and how do they share them?
The pronouns that people use most often are she/her/her, he/him/his, and she/she/their. However, they are often mixed together (she/she for example) and used in other ways, so the important thing is to politely ask people what their pronouns are.
One way to make people feel comfortable sharing their pronouns is to share yours when you introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m Cinnamon and I use her/her pronouns.” When it comes to others, University of California, Davis’ LGBTQIA Resource Center recommends just asking politely. Now sure how? Here are some questions to ask:
- “May I ask what pronouns you use?”
- “Do you enjoy sharing your pronouns?”
- “When I refer to you, what pronouns should I use?”
It is best not to ask people what their “preferential” pronouns are, as this suggests an element of choice or flexibility that can infringe on the validity of one’s identity.
How can I help my employees learn more about pronoun sharing?
Next, there are several things you can do to encourage pronoun sharing at work. You can encourage employees to put their pronouns in their email signatures and include them in company bios, business cards, and other information you share.
You can further normalize pronoun sharing by starting with meetings and other scenarios that require introductions by including your pronouns after your introduction – something like this: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe, CEO, and I use she/them pronouns.”
While shame may lead some to apologize profusely, drawing too much attention to the situation can put the wrong-sex person in an awkward position.
Another thing to communicate to employees is that accidental use of the wrong pronouns can happen. If someone is in this situation, it’s best to apologize, use the pronoun you intended to use or know to be correct, and move on without giving too much thought to it or make a big problem out of it.
While shame may lead some to apologize profusely, drawing too much attention to the situation can put the wrong-sex person in an awkward position. It’s best to acknowledge, apologize, and move on.
Should I have a pronoun sharing policy?
While you should definitely encourage employees who are comfortable sharing their pronouns to do so, it’s probably not a good idea to make pronoun sharing mandatory. This is because it can make people who are not quite ready or willing to share their identity in the workplace uncomfortable.
Encouragement and leading by example are often best practices when it comes to pronoun sharing. The whole idea is to be inclusive and welcome all kinds of diversity, not to pressure or rush anyone with something they’re uncomfortable with.