In today’s rapidly evolving society, issues of equity and acceptance of transgender and non-binary individuals have become major topics of discussion within communities and organizations. It is crucial for organizations to recognize the need for navigating these topics with sensitivity and understanding. One important element in that navigation is the proper use of gender pronouns. Gender pronouns are an essential part of a person’s identity and using them correctly is a central part of signaling respect, courtesy and acceptance.

In this blog, we will explore the key topics discussed during a recent conversation between Cile Johnson, Chief Business Officer at Talent Dimensions, and Dr. Tzeitel Gutierrez-Garralda, Risk Management at Amazon. Their conversation, Navigating Gender Pronouns and Transitions at Work, streamed on the Global ERG Network®.Discussion centered around understanding key terms, the impact of properly using pronouns, related workplace policies and how allyship can help make usage a part of the environment.

Understanding Key Terms

To build a foundation for respectful interactions and connections, it is important to understand key terms related to gender identity and expression. The terms sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings.

Sex refers to the biological characteristics assigned at birth based on external anatomy. It is categorized as male, female or intersex. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people with differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes or hormones that do not fit typical definitions of male or female.

Gender is a social construct that encompasses the norms, behaviors and roles associated with masculinity and femininity. It is a personal and internal sense of self that may or may not align with the sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression refers to the way individuals outwardly express their gender identity through various means, such as clothing, hairstyles, behavior and other visible characteristics. It encompasses the external manifestations that society often associates with masculinity or femininity.

Gender identity is an individual’s internal sense of self and their deeply held sense of being male, female or something else. It may or may not align with the sex assigned at birth.

Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both genders or neither gender.

Importance of Proper Pronoun Usage

Using gender pronouns correctly is crucial to ensure interactions are courteous and considerate. Proper pronoun usage is a way to respect and affirm someone’s gender identity and an important aspect of creating an inclusive and supportive environment for transgender and non-binary individuals.

“While understanding terminology is important, recognizing and respecting people as individuals and who they are creates greater inclusion that leads to belonging ”
– Cile Johnson, Talent Dimensions

It is important to keep in mind that language evolves over time. Terms commonly used now may differ from those in the past, as understanding of ideas, identities and experiences have shifted. Individuals may choose to describe themselves using terms that were less common in the past or may use entirely different terms from those commonly heard in previous years and situations.

Building on this common language and understanding of terminology as a starting point, taking steps then to recognize, respect and demonstrate a sincere regard for people as individuals and who they are creates greater opportunity for the inclusivity that leads to belonging.

Workplace Policies and Pronoun Usage

Inclusive workplace environments are sustained when policies and practices reflect an organizational commitment to ensure people are treated fairly and equitably and can bring their full selves to work. Incorporating gender pronouns in the language of policies and the actions that are part of practices is essential to building and maintaining the inclusive workplace and represents a significant step towards nurturing a culture of inclusivity and support within the workplace. Clear policies, practices, guidelines and procedures ensure that employees feel comfortable and safe expressing their gender identity. Through the deliberate inclusion of gender pronouns in the organizational official and unofficial internal language, organizations showcase their commitment to cultivating a workplace that values the diversity of its workforce.

“Having policies in place that address gender pronouns is essential for fostering a supportive and respectful environment.”
– Cile Johnson, Talent Dimensions

This commitment lays the foundation for all employees to thrive, knowing that their identities are not only acknowledged but also respected and celebrated.

The Power of Allyship

Allies who actively support and advocate for the rights and well-being of transgender and non-binary individuals accelerate the work of building and maintaining workplace inclusion.

Allies make a difference by educating themselves about transgender and non-binary issues. Through their pursuit of knowledge and understanding, they become equipped with the tools to challenge biases and misconceptions they encounter or observe in the workplace. Allies make valuable contributions to creating a safe environment where all employees can thrive.

Allyship requires a genuine commitment to listen, learn and be open to understanding the lived experiences and perspectives of transgender and non-binary individuals. This involves actively seeking out their voices and ensuring that their input is valued and considered in workplace discussions and decision-making processes. By actively listening and learning, allies can foster a culture that embraces diverse perspectives and amplifies the voices of marginalized communities.

The Future

Ongoing conversation and dialogue are key to building and maintaining environments where all employees feel welcomed, appreciated and know they belong. Discussion of issues like pronoun use demonstrates the organization’s commitment to openness. Organizations that will thrive in the future will continue to identify, explore and implement best practices, address challenges and opposition and continuously adapt to the evolving understanding of what employees need in order to feel free to bring their full selves to work.

Join us in this journey of creating inclusive work environments where everyone feels respected and valued. Let’s celebrate the diversity of our workforce and empower each other to thrive in a world that embraces and uplifts every individual, regardless of their gender identity or expression.

Together, we can create a future where inclusion is not just a goal but a fundamental aspect of every workplace.

If you want to watch the full conversation or learn more about gender pronouns, join the Global ERG Network®.