Should Everyone Adopt Gender Pronouns?


Dear DW,

I am a cisgender woman. Should I add “she/her” to the signature in my email?

Signed, Want to Be an Ally

Dear Ally,

Specifying gender pronouns as a cisgender woman sends a signal of inclusivity, says Nancy J. Geenan, chief executive officer of Flexability, a workplace equity and inclusion firm based in Emeryville, California. It lets other employees, customers, and prospective customers know that you’re thinking beyond yourself and you care about equity in the workplace.

To a member of the LGBTQ community, it “shows that they matter, and that they can belong here at this company,” says Geenan.

But should employees be forced to do it? Mandating the use of gender pronouns can politicize the issue, some HR experts warn. Also, some may not be comfortable sharing their pronouns or not want to do so for religious reasons. “I’m not a big fan of mandating anything, because if I tell you, ‘You have to do it,’ I’m not recognizing your values or your beliefs either,” Geenan says.

A better strategy is endorsing the practice, allowing employees to make the choice, and giving them a standardized way to add it to their email signatures. Those who do so may inspire others or educate colleagues on the issue. One effective practice Geenan has seen is a hyperlink added under the signature to a webpage titled, “Why I use pronouns.”

Geenan has observed a steady increase in the number of organizations allowing employees to implement the practice, as well as company leaders who identify the pronouns they use, so as to send a message of inclusion throughout the ranks.

Diversity Woman is one of those companies that endorses the use of gender pronouns as a way to show support for our colleagues who have a different gender orientation. “The more that leaders can demonstrate inclusiveness and equity, the better the company culture will be,” Geenan says. DW

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