Pronouns in the Workplace: It’s Easier Than You Think

Kim Darling

By Kim Darling (she/her).

The Courts of BC recently announced a requirement for all people in attendance to introduce themselves to the Court indicating their preferred pronouns and titles.  I happened to be in court on the first day this was in effect.  All three counsel, myself included, gave the Court our new form of introductions which included pronouns and titles and the hearing proceeded as normal thereafter.

I happen to know both the other lawyers there that day are like me in that we are all in opposite sex marriages with kids and we all identify with our apparent genders.   It occurred to me that literally the only impact on us was a moment of getting used to a new protocol, and that’s the whole point.  The change isn’t about me or people like me, it’s about others who are made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome because of assumptions and traditions. Requiring me to introduce myself with “she/her” costs me nothing but can have the impact of making those around me, who might otherwise be uncomfortable or feel singled out if they want to express a preference, feel more included.

By making it so that everyone has to indicate their preferred pronouns and titles, the Courts have taken away the stigma to a person who wishes to speak up to indicate they have a preference. These people no longer have to put their hand up and ask for extra attention to be drawn to them in this regard.

Adopting a workplace policy where everyone is expected to indicate their preferred pronouns makes for a more inclusive environment.  This can become the new norm and it costs nothing. Sure there may be some resistance from those employees who don’t understand, but that is an excellent opportunity to engage in education about ways in which we may unintentionally discriminate against our co-workers and how we can avoid that.

Another easy way to foster a more inclusive environment is to make deliberate choices on language in your communications.  Contracts and HR policy manuals can be drafted either with the gender neutral they/them/theirs, or you can simply re-work the grammar to avoid pronouns at all by using, for example, “the employee”.

Sustainable employment includes the concept of treating employees fairly and with high integrity.  Gender inclusivity is only one aspect of sustainable employment and taking small steps to remove barriers is a low-cost, high-reward endeavor.


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