What are pronouns?
Pronouns are a word used to refer to either the person who is talking (such as “I” or “you”), someone who is being spoken about (such as “she/her”, “he/him” or “they/them”) or when something belongs to someone (as is “his”, “hers” or “theirs”).
Examples of pronoun usage:
- Let me introduce you to Louise, she is our Operations Director.
- Carl works in our manufacturing team, so that candidate is relevant to his specific market.
- Lucy is our CEO, and they are responsible for running Pod Talent.
Why do pronouns matter?
- Pronouns are used constantly in day-to-day conversation, more often than someone’s name! Think how many times you would have spoken about a person and referred to them as he/she/they today?
- Pronouns are often gendered or indicate someone’s gender – we are not all gender conforming. Some people are non-binary, and some people do not identify with the gender in which they present or the one they were assigned at birth – so it’s important to get this right, in the same way it’s important to get someone’s name right when speaking about them
- Someone may change their pronouns from the ones you were originally familiar with. This is a really important part of someone’s identity (again, much like a name!).
But my gender is obvious and it’s the one I identify with, why do I need to display my pronouns?
Most people do conform to the gender they appear to be, so you may question why you need to display your pronouns, when it’s obvious which gender you are? This is an understandable question - but - by using your pronouns, you are opening the door and creating a safe space for someone to tell you their pronouns, which shows allyship.
How can you promote inclusivity through pronoun visibility and usage?
- Display your pronouns on LinkedIn and encourage your business to do the same.
- Include pronouns in your email signature and encourage everyone in your business to do the same.
- Include pronouns on other places that display people’s names – org charts, staff directories, meet the team webpages, company presentations etc.
- Use pronouns when introducing yourself or others in meetings i.e., “my name is Lucy and my pronouns are they/they” or “this is Lucy, their pronouns are they/them”.
- Make an effort to pay attention to someone’s pronouns and try your best to use them.
- Practice is important! It takes intention to use someone’s correct pronouns especially if they are different to ones you associated with them before – but your effort is really appreciated by that person, so keep trying.
- Allow the person you are speaking about/other people to correct you if you make a mistake (we all make mistakes, but creating a space where people can be corrected is important).
- If you get something wrong, apologise and move on – it’s really ok to make mistakes, but an apology goes a long way.
What if I don’t know someone’s pronouns?
- If you are speaking to someone directly and don’t know their pronouns, it’s ok to ask!
- If you are speaking about someone and you aren’t aware of their pronouns (and can’t ask), the safest course of action is to refer to the person as “they/them”, until you know.
What is non-binary?
Non-binary refers to someone who does not conform to traditional beliefs around gender, which stipulate everyone is either “male” or “female”. Non-binary may be referred to as gender fluid, gender-free, gender-less, ungendered or gender non-conforming.
Someone who is non-binary sees themselves as both and/or neither binary gender, which is why they will use the pronouns “they/them” as they are non-gendered.
My favourite analogy about non-binary is “it’s like brunch” – it’s both breakfast and lunch, but it is also neither.
What is trans?
Trans is an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were presumed to be at birth. This may also be referred to as transgender. Trans as a term includes non-binary people as well. Someone who is trans may use the pronouns “they/them” but they may also ask you to change their pronouns to “he/him” or “she/her” as well, depending on their preferences and identity. When someone changes pronouns (and/or their name), it’s really important to make an effort to use the new pronouns you have been asked to use, as not using them can be very damaging and upsetting to the person you are speaking to.
Please refer to Stonewall’s list of LGBTQ+ terms for more information - https://www.stonewall.org.uk/list-lgbtq-terms
This article was written by Lucy Morgan, CEO of Pod Talent. Lucy is openly queer and non-binary and passionate about LGBTQ+ inclusivity in both the recruitment and Supply Chain industries. If you’d like to talk to Lucy in more detail, you can reach them on email@example.com