Organizations embrace equity by sharing gender pronouns in email signatures
As the world becomes more aware of gender identity and expressions, many organizations seek to create a culture of inclusivity that respects all employees and embraces equity. Such organizations tend to be progressive employers. They challenge inequality and champion inclusion, maintaining increased awareness of the diversity of the trans community and increased understanding of the breadth of gender identities.
For many organizations when communicating externally and internally, the addition of gender pronouns in an email signature can facilitate an employee's gender expression, particularly those outside of the binary, and asks allies to acknowledge and respect this.
Pronouns in email signatures show how the sender identifies themselves and how they prefer to be referred to in the third person. Using pronouns in email signatures can send a message that the organization is inclusive of everyone and that it acknowledges and embraces gender diversity.
For employees who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community, or who do not have to regularly think about their gender and how their gender is perceived by others, the act of stating pronouns might seem difficult for some to understand. Although some may perceive the use of pronouns in email signatures as a seemingly small gesture, acknowledging someone's gender pronouns is certainly a significant sign of respect that can hugely impact one's feeling of belonging.
Quite simply, including pronouns in an email signature is a similar gesture to stating your preferred name: both are a clear signal of how someone wants to be referred to in communications.
Furthermore, gender pronouns are an important matter for people with a gender-neutral name who do not have thoughts on their innate gender identity.
What are gender pronouns?
Gender pronouns identify a person’s gender identity. The three most commonly-used ones are:
- for people preferring to identify as neither male nor female, or as non-binary: They/Them/Their
- for people preferring to identify as male: He/Him/His
- for people preferring to identify as female: She/Her/Hers
How does inclusion of pronouns in email signatures promote equity?
For organizations, adding pronouns to email signatures is a quick and an effective way to promote inclusion for its employees, clients and suppliers. Pronouns also remove confusion around a person's gender and reduces the likelihood of mis-gendering, which can cause upset and harm.
While it may be clear why non-binary employees may prefer to add pronouns to email signatures, it is equally important that cisgender employees are also encouraged to do so. A cisgender person is someone whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth - so someone identifying as a woman and was identified as female when she was born. While their questions did not come from a malicious place, they did come from a place of unrealized privilege. Acknowledging and being aware of privilege can help make a difference when it comes to being an ally to the trans and non-binary community.
Progress regarding gender requires dismantling assumptions that 'he' and 'she' are the default, normalizing the expression of pronouns, and removing the burden from non-binary colleagues to constantly 'come out' and repeat conversations around their gender identity.
"We encourage employees to use their personal pronouns (such as he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs) in internal and external communications, including email correspondence and email signatures. Not only is this a sign of mutual respect, it's practical for our global company. With employees and customers on six continents, communicating among many languages can be challenging at times. Names, whether they are in your native language or not, aren't always transparent to gender and gender expression. Sharing pronouns promotes clear, respectful communication for everyone," explains inclusive employer John Deere.
The importance of listening to all employees
Pronouns are important for inclusivity, however many believe that their use should not be forced or mandatory. As a personal and sensitive decision, people may not be ready to declare their pronouns. Others might accept the use of gender pronouns in email signatures, while others may require more time to become comfortable with the idea.
Organizations can actively help facilitate conversation around the use of gender pronouns in email signatures, and can openly listen to the opinions of employees, offering support based on feedback. Employees may be offered a choice about whether they wish to include pronouns in their email signatures. And while transparency around gender pronouns is an important aspect of workplace inclusivity, a sense of belonging extends well beyond solely gender.
Adding pronouns in email signatures
Email signatures are often already crowded with information such as forename and surname, job title, contact details, organization name, and possibly a logo or imagery, and social media handles. In many signatures, pronouns are put next to the person's name, but this can depend on the template.
An easy starting point for organizations is by surveying employees about whether they may like to include pronouns in their email signatures and, if they would like to opt in as to what pronouns they use. Support can be incorporated across the organization using email signature management tools.
Creating an inclusive workplace culture
Inclusion initiatives are not only aimed at attracting diverse talent to an organization, but also to ensure current employees feel welcome in the workplace.
Creating an inclusive environment includes introducing major policies, strategies, and campaigns, as well as smaller, but equally significant, changes, such as adding pronouns in email signatures.
All organizations can share a vision of a workplace where everyone gains the support they require. Stating pronouns emphasizes the uniqueness of each employee, while encouraging conducive behaviors and attitudes that support and recognize everyone's differences.