Why are Gender Pronouns Important?
Gender pronouns in workplace
Equality in the workplace and creating a comfortable environment for all employees is extremely important to foster a culture of acceptance and understanding amongst your workforce. Specifically, issues of equality and acceptance of transgender and non-binary people have become an area of focus in our society. To address these issues, we have created gender pronouns to refer to people, and this idea about identity can be new to some people. Most people may not have had to consider their pronouns as they aren’t an important part of their identity. However, for people who are constantly misgendered or questioned about their identity using the correct gender pronouns when addressing these individuals can assist them in feeling included and respected rather than excluded and alienated. The goal here is to assist people to communicate effectively and in an inclusive manner and to respect one another. The workplace can be daunting for some as so many different opinions and views come together. Using a person’s correct name and preferred pronouns shows respect and is a basic courtesy. As this can be a new concept to some let’s explore in detail the difference between sex and gender and how to address someone by their correct and preferred pronouns.
The difference between sex and gender
Many people confuse sex and gender to mean the same thing however there is a difference, and it is important to recognise in context of gender pronouns. Sex refers to the physical differences between people, this can either be female, male or intersex. Typically, an individual’s sex is assigned at birth. Gender on the other hand is a social construct. Individuals will often develop their gender identity and the way they prefer to express their gender in relation to their environment. Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose current gender they identify with is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender covers wider range of people at varying stages of their transitioning process. However, to clarify an individual does not actually have to legally change their gender to be included in any definition of how they feel and would prefer to identify with.
7 Tips for getting pronouns right
1. Never assume another individual’s gender or gender pronouns:
It’s impossible to always know what someone’s gender pronouns may be and assuming incorrectly will leave the person feeling excluded. The way someone dresses or their name may not always be a correct indicator of the correct gender pronoun they associate with.
2. Always ask someone’s preferred gender pronoun:
Showing respect begins by acknowledging and going out of your way to ask the person you are speaking to how they would like to be referred to. For example, think about when someone doesn’t address you by your correct name. It can be offensive to some. Asking about using the correct gender pronoun a person identifies with shows care and compassion and will in turn make the individual feel accepted.
3. Share your gender pronoun:
This one may seem obvious. By sharing your own gender pronoun will contribute to the normalisation of using gender pronouns. An easy way to do this is to include them in your email signature or on your social media accounts. This will go a long way in normalising the use of gender pronouns and will help people who identify out of the binary pronouns and will assist them in feeling safe, accepted and included.
4. If you call someone by the wrong pronoun apologise:
Everyone makes mistakes, if you happen to use the incorrect pronoun just apologise to the person. A sincere apology will show it is an honest mistake and that you are willing to learn and respect the person. Ask them what pronoun they identify with and continue speaking to them using the correct pronoun.
5. If possible, avoid gendered language:
When addressing groups of people avoid addressing the group with “ladies and gentlemen” and similar phrases. Use phrases such as “everyone” or “friends and colleagues.” Terms that aren’t related to gender or sex. This will ensure you avoid excluding anyone and create a more inclusive environment for people who identity with different gender pronouns.
6. Offer advice to others:
In the workplace if a colleague uses someone’s incorrect pronoun correct them and offer them advice as to how to correctly address someone.
7. Practise and research the different pronouns:
By practising the different pronouns when someone introduces themselves you will already be accustomed with the various gender pronouns a person may identify with.
Being misgendered can be hurtful and make the person feel excluded. In the workplace we should do all we can to ensure that we are addressing people by their correct gender pronouns and educating employees on the correct etiquette to create an all-inclusive workplace environment where nonbinary people feel included and accepted.