Intl. Pronouns Day: Five Ways to Establish A Safe and Respectful Space for All Employees

International Pronouns Day happens each year on the third Wednesday of October so Merry International Pronouns Day! This October 20 is a great time to start a discussion that should continue year-round: referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is a basic human dignity.  Earlier this month, a Canadian court even ruled that misgendering someone is a human rights violation (h/t them article).  With many organizations putting a greater focus on diversity, equity and inclusion practices, we at Out in Tech are bringing you five things to keep in mind when thinking about pronouns in the workplace:

1. Lead by example

If you want to move the needle in the right direction, do it with your own actions! A great practice is mentioning your own pronouns during introductions, whether you’re interviewing, or starting a presentation. Employers and team leaders should always lead by example in this way to encourage trans and genderqueer people to feel comfortable in their workplace. 

2. Stamp it everywhere

HR leaders: this is for you! Encourage employees to include pronouns in their email signatures and professional online platforms such as LinkedIn. It is a more powerful statement than you may think. It shows that pronouns matter and that your company is thoughtful about inclusion. Also, now that most virtual meeting platforms have added an option to display pronouns, employees should be encouraged to display their pronouns on all platforms like, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet.

3. Think Before You Speak

We rely on idioms a lot! So when speaking to a group, it is easy to slip and say terms like “ladies and gentlemen.” Phrases like “hey guys” might seem gender-neutral, but others in the audience may not appreciate it. Strive to use more inclusive language like “everyone,” “colleagues,” “friends” or “folks.” Take a moment to consider how gendered the English language can be, with terms like “fireman,” “freshman,” or “mankind.” These can be replaced with gender-neutral terms like “firefighter,” “first-year student,” or “humankind.” Everyone benefits when we are more careful about the words we use.

4. Change those forms

When creating forms, consider whether you need to include information about gender or if it can be skipped altogether. If the information is required, avoid the term “other” in the gender identification section because it’s important to allow people to express how they identify, whether it’s he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/zir/zem, or another. If it is absolutely necessary, create a space for them to write what pronouns they use after the list is exhausted.

5. Keep Learning and Unlearning

If you want to find out more about gender and personal pronouns, including the singular use of “they,” there are several resources that can help. These resources can help people understand the differences between concepts like gender identity and gender expression: HRC, LGBT Resource Center, GLSEN, International Pronouns Day, My Pronouns.

Finally, try not to get discouraged as you expand your knowledge and make mistakes. Just do your best!

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