Using Gender Pronouns in Your Organization [Best Practices]

Using Gender Pronouns in Your Organization

GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance 2017 survey shows that the acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities has reached historic levels, particularly among millennials. Acceptance is becoming mainstream, and young people are now more likely to openly identify as LGBTQ+ while rejecting traditional labels and seeing the world in terms beyond a binary. 

What does this mean for organizations? The world has changed. Organizations must also learn to keep up with these changes. 

With conversations around gender changing and the status quo being redefined, the workplace is being reshaped. 

In these exciting times, gender pronouns are an emerging workplace trend. Let’s find out how it can be adopted in a progressive and welcoming workplace

Using Gender Pronouns in the Workplace

Language in the workplace can often be inadvertently gendered. For instance, positions of power like “chairman” or referring to married women with the prefix “Mrs.” have been questioned for years.

But now that gender neutrality is becoming more mainstream, organizations should be more careful about the language and its impact on the workplace. 

Consider using gender-neutral language for the most part and opting for gendered pronouns only if the person has given you explicit information about their gender. 

Gender-neutral pronouns and prefixes are- they, them, their, and Mx. 

It Starts with Awareness

Not sure what pronouns to use for a person at work? Listen to them. Notice what pronouns they use for themselves and what their closest friends use. If that’s not possible, begin by mentioning your pronouns and then politely ask them what theirs are. 

You can go with something like this, ‘Hi, I’m Jackie, my pronouns are she and her. What about you?’ 

Keep the Rules Same for Everyone

You don’t want to single out people who you assume to be gender non-conforming. 

When asking for someone’s pronouns, ask everyone. Don’t just do it for some people who you aren’t sure about. Never assume anyone’s pronouns, and always ask before using any. 

Encourage Your Team to State Their Pronouns

No one likes to be singled out and be termed the outlier. So make things easy for employees and encourage them to state their pronouns wherever possible. 

For instance, many people are now stating their preferred pronouns in their social media bios, business cards, and email signatures. 

Make it the norm to state your pronouns at the beginning of any conversation and ensure that the company leadership starts doing this. All diversity and inclusion initiatives perform better when they are top-down. 

Have You Misgendered Someone? 

Misgendering someone is wrong. But if it was done inadvertently, just apologize and do better next time. 

But do make sure that you aren’t doing it repeatedly because that means you just don’t care enough to make a change. For example, if you keep referring to someone as Jackie when their name is Jackson, they will get annoyed over time. Gender pronouns work in the same way. Respect your colleagues and do better. 

Eliminate Gendered Language 

Be it meetings, emails, articles, or text messages, avoid using gendered language altogether. 

Stop using pronouns like he, him, his or she, her, hers. Ze/hir/hirs can replace both he/him/his and she/her/hers and so can ey/em/eirs. Use the word ‘person’ more often. For instance, instead of singling out someone by saying ‘the girl in the sales department,’ try ‘the person in the sales department.’ 

Similarly, in your salutations, avoid using terms like sir or madam and adopt a gender-neutral language. 

Accommodate Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People

In your workplace, make changes that accommodate everyone. 

If the restroom says female (with a dress) and male (without a dress) separately, consider making the signage more gender-neutral. Many companies are now considering non-gendered washrooms, and it’s a step in the right direction. 

Show Your Employees That You Care

You need to cultivate an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable. For employees who are transgender and are gender non-conforming, show them that they can be authentic at work. Allow them to express themselves through language, clothing, makeup, and anything else that makes them feel comfortable. 

The Takeaway

The world is changing when it comes to someone’s gender identity and expression. Most workplaces are trying to be as gender-neutral as possible, but we also need to take a step forward and embrace pronouns that work for individuals. 

Using gender pronouns, whether in your emails or in-person, can reduce the chance of misgendering and is an essential strategy for inclusivity. 

Everything good starts with awareness and practice. Although this may seem like a small and easy step, pronouns are only one part of a larger puzzle. The larger picture is the mental health of many employees, their productivity, and the work environment within organizations. 


This is a guest post by AttendanceBot, a chat-first app to solve all your time tracking, absence management, vacation tracking, and employee shift planning problems.

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