Pronouns: Getting it Right

Pronouns: Getting it Right

In this article, our Senior HR advisor, Daniel Williams, discusses how employers should handle pronouns in the workplace.

What Are Pronouns?

Pronouns are the words we use in place of a noun to address a person. For example, instead of ‘man’, we use he/him/his, for ‘woman’, she/her/hers. However, it goes beyond that now due to gender neutrality, non-binary and trans awareness coming to the forefront. These neutral terms or gender-inclusive pronouns (e.g. they/them/theirs) refer to pronouns that do not associate the individual with a gender of either male or female.

A trans person is someone who defines themself as a gender other than that which they were assigned at birth. People have a gender assigned at birth according to their genitalia and other anatomy. However, this assignment sometimes conflicts with their gender identity – their internal sense of their own gender and what feels right for them. This might be male, female, non-binary (outside of male or female), genderless, or some other gender identity – this is perfectly normal, hence the reason it should be celebrated. It is not always possible to know someone’s gender identity from their appearance alone, so we should not make assumptions about a person’s pronouns from their appearance, voice, or characteristics.

When incorrectly referring to someone with a pronoun they do not associate themself with, it can be alienating a detrimental for their gender identity. By getting a pronoun right, it shows a level of respect for the individual.

As businesses, we should accept and introduce the pronouns agenda to the table. The legal aspect considers the potential grounds of discrimination, due to the protected characteristics of gender and sexual orientation. However, the moral driver should be considered as the main reason to get pronouns right. We all want to feel safe, respected and welcomed at work – this is one simple way to make your environment inclusive. 

How Do We Get It Right?

There are several simple and creative ways to address a culture of pronouns, below are three recommendations for you to try:

Stop and Listen – Listen to how people speak about themselves and follow suit, for example, if they say, “people always say when they meet me, oh they are interesting”. If you are not sure or misheard, ask, “Sorry I missed your pronouns then, can you repeat”.

First Impressions – When you introduce yourself or another person to someone for the first time, educate from this point, such as “this is David they work in Accounts” or “This is Skye, he works in HR”. By using gender-neutral terminology before someone discloses their pronouns to you, it shows that you are an advocate for sharing pronouns. “There is someone here to meet you at the reception; I asked them to take a seat”.

Written and Clear – Consider editing HR documentation to refer to ‘they’ and ‘them’ rather than the norm of ‘he’ and ‘him’, this may not be a culture fit for your company, but something to contemplate. Additionally, one impactful way is to include your pronouns in your email signature. However, wearing badges or lanyards that display your pronouns can help others identify you correctly and may assist you to normalise sharing pronouns.

Should you wish to have further discussions on the above material, please contact HPC for more information.

If you have any concerns or would like to discuss the topics within this article further, please get in contact with the HPC team today. 

T: 0844 800 5932


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest news and updates

Sign up now