Pride and pronouns

I don’t use pronouns in my email signature and when I was asked to write this article as part of Pride Month I reflected on why I choose not to do so. I imagine I’m not the only woman of my generation who has never wanted to focus on the matter of my gender at work, particularly around childbearing age. For all the wrong reasons, I never thought the idea of drawing attention to being “she/ her” was going to be helpful to my career prospects. 

But that is my personal view borne out of my own experience and I know that if I wished to feature pronouns in my signature then my firm would support me in making this happen. This, in my view, is the key. Whilst using pronouns in email signatures as standard will ultimately be a decision for each employer, there are compelling reasons for organisations to consider allowing the use of pronouns if staff wish to do so:

Inclusivity and respect

By allowing pronouns usage employers can demonstrate a commitment to respecting each individual’s identity, which can improve morale and create a more welcoming atmosphere.

 It can also reduce the risk of misgendering where staff are concerned that this may happen and help prevent the discomfort and disrespect that can come from using incorrect pronouns. In this regard employers will be less exposed to allegations of discrimination. 

Visibility and normalisation

The option to use pronouns assists in normalising conversations about gender and identity. It makes discussions about gender identity and respect more common and less stigmatised. 

It can also encourage staff to think about and understand gender diversity.

Alignment with DEI goals

By giving staff a choice employers can support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and align with broader organisational goals around diversity and inclusion. This in turn can enhance corporate image.

Other considerations

Voluntary participation is, in my view, key in order to respect each individual’s comfort level and privacy.  Some employees may not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns due to personal reasons or concerns about privacy and safety.

Clear Guidelines

It would be advisable for employers to provide clear instructions and examples for how to include pronouns in email signatures and offer resources and training to educate employees about the organisation’s policy on usage.

Next steps for employers

Employers should assess their organisational culture and readiness for this change. It might require some cultural adjustments and sensitivity training. Employers must ensure that any move to include pronouns is part of a broader, consistent effort to support diversity and inclusion.

Implementation steps

Communicate the Policy

  • Clearly communicate the new policy to all employees, explaining the reasons and benefits.
  • Highlight that it is optional and no one is compelled to include their pronouns.

Provide Support

  • Offer training sessions or informational resources about the importance of pronouns and gender identity.
  • Provide technical support for adding pronouns to email signatures.

Monitor and Adjust

  • Monitor the implementation and gather feedback from employees.
  • Be open to making adjustments based on the feedback and the needs of your staff.

While employers don’t strictly need to allow staff to use pronouns in their email signatures, doing so can significantly contribute to a more inclusive, respectful, and supportive work environment. It can also enhance your organisation’s image and alignment with DEI goals. Making it voluntary, providing proper guidelines, and ensuring ongoing support are key to successful implementation.