The Power of Pronouns: How to Respect Gender Identity at Work

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began there was a fundamental shift happening in what is important to people at work. No longer was the sole focus on pay or traditional benefits – a sense of good company culture, an environment of inclusion and belonging, and having a clear and growing career path was becoming increasingly important to new and current employees of organizations. In addition, companies that were leaning into a more inclusive environment were seeing actual business results – higher rates of innovation, employee attraction and retention, and an ability to better understand and connect with the needs of customers. 

Here at Statwax, two of our core values are centered around recognizing people for their entire selves and using that as the core of decision-making and company culture. The first of these values, valuing everyone’s authentic self, has helped guide us in how to include aspects of identity that are important to someone, and therefore important to their work selves, as a natural part of our work process and environment. This value sees us encourage folks to bring who they are, fully, to work and that the ideas, thoughts, challenges, and opportunities that come from that full self enrich our organization and clients. 

The second value we have as a company focused on inclusion is to care about people as whole individuals. Our goal is that this value helps everyone see each other as individuals that have lives and experiences outside the office that they bring with them to work, and that just supporting career goals doesn’t breed a true sense of belonging. Cheering on folks as they engage in activities outside the office, supporting them through life changes, and incorporating simple tasks like sharing pronouns have all helped us live this core value to the fullest as an organization. 

Speaking of pronouns, International Pronouns Day was recently celebrated. As an aspect of inclusion, recognizing and celebrating folks and their pronouns is one way to foster a sense of belonging amongst your teams. Creating an environment in your business that makes sharing pronouns a part of everyday life as much as sharing where you grew up or what team you work for can make employees feel like they can truly bring their whole, authentic selves to their job and that every perspective, experience, and idea tied to that self is valued. Making this simple change – creating a space to share pronouns and doing so organizationally – had a big impact on our folks feeling more included and seen at work. Below we share a few ways we were able to make recognizing and sharing pronouns a part of everyday work life and the positive impact it can have on your people. 

Share pronouns in Zoom/email signatures/other profiles

Everyone across the organization sharing their pronouns can really help reduce assumptions and make folks feel included from some first touchpoints with your organization. By publicly sharing pronouns – whether in your Zoom profile name, email signature, or other online profiles – you signal that you recognize and support correct pronoun usage and showcase to others what pronouns you yourself use for proper recognition of your identity. 

Make sharing pronouns a part of the onboarding process

One of the biggest impact items we did as an organization was to include sharing of pronouns in our onboarding process. We added a field to our onboarding form, as well as the ability to share pronouns in our HR system that tracks time off, personal info, and performance review information. By including the ability to share pronouns so early in someone’s process of working with us, we heard from our people that they immediately felt that we were offering a more inclusive workplace and a safe environment for them to be who they truly are at work. In addition, we found that this element was key for folks that onboarded or started working with during the pandemic and were navigating starting a new job in a virtual world. By sharing pronouns, we signaled early what kind of culture we had and how we were welcoming each person into that culture from the start. 

Using gender-neutral pronouns in policy and procedure documents

Another key step we took to creating an inclusive environment was using gender-inclusive language in as many policies and procedure documents as possible. This included our employee handbook, onboarding forms, and HR documents. We worked diligently to review and make these changes throughout the past few years to create the feeling that the documents were really for and speak to all the different types of folks on our staff. 

Hold training for allyship and understanding and using pronouns

Finally, one of the most important elements for our team was to discuss and provide training on allyship and the understanding and usage of pronouns. For some folks on our teams, the concept of pronouns was new and they needed guidance on what different types of pronouns are used and why. Our goal was to provide this training to show the importance of using someone’s correct pronouns and their part in creating an environment that uses them and creates a sense of belonging. In addition, over time folks will make pronoun mistakes – it happens, as we are all human! Training should go beyond the essential usage of pronouns to how to address when you or someone around you misgenders someone. By being able to have honest conversations around these types of interactions it creates a continued feeling of a safe and inclusive environment and team collaboration and support – which are all key to folks feeling as if they belong at your organization and producing good work. 

We work continually to ensure we are providing an environment that feels inclusive to all of our folks and is a place they feel like they can be themselves and that the perspectives they bring from their lives are valued and needed at our organization. Through some simple changes in how we operate and what we share as an organization, we have gotten good feedback from our folks that we are indeed meeting this mandate. In addition, we have been able to expand our staff, retain great employees, and offer our clients a more rich experience with our agency – which is also a great win!

Want to keep up with how we are creating an inclusive environment, even in a hybrid work world? Follow us on social media! 

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