Today, it’s crucial that businesses emphasize diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The goal, after all, is to make employees feel valued, accepted and welcome. As acceptance of various self-identifiers becomes increasingly common, it’s important that companies follow suit and create all-inclusive language in their workplace collateral and documentation.
To achieve that, organizations need to understand (and focus on) inclusion. For instance, everyone has many identities. Some may include age, gender, religion, race, socioeconomic class and sexual orientation. How someone identifies themselves can affect many facets of their life, including work.
When it comes to self-identification pronouns, a person has the right to be addressed by their preferred gender identity. As noted by Lexology, new laws are being created that specify “employers must honor an employee’s request to be identified by a preferred gender, name or pronoun, including gender-neutral pronouns.”
What Is Self-Identification?
Gender identity is one’s deeply held internal sense of being male, female, some of both or neither. Your gender identity doesn’t have to correspond to your biological sex.
A person who is assigned male at birth may identify as female, and a person who is assigned female at birth may identify as male. Someone’s gender identity may also be more fluid, and change. In addition, individuals may identify as gender-neutral, meaning they don’t identify with any gender whatsoever.
What Are Gender-Neutral Pronouns?
There are a lot of gender-neutral and self-identifying pronouns. According to Motto, “they/them/their” are commonly used pronouns to refer to gender nonconforming individuals. Some also identify by the gender-neutral pronouns “ze/hir/hirs” (pronounced “zee/here/heres”) or “ey/em/eir” (pronounced “ay/em/airs”). Pronoun preferences vary depending on the person.
5 Ways Businesses Can Keep Language All-Inclusive
When working on corporate collateral, diversity and inclusion in the workplace begins with gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive language, which will go a long way toward making employees feel valued and respected. Here are five ways to promote inclusivity:
- Use gender-neutral language in all internal written materials, such as company handbooks, training manuals, memos, contracts, employee offers and company newsletters. While formerly considered incorrect, using the singular “they” to refer to an individual has become an accepted—and recommended—practice.
- Consider establishing employee research groups (networks of volunteers within your company) who can provide education, advocacy and support around the LGBTQIA community and help the organization hone the language used in corporate documents.
- Create clear inclusion goals and help leaders reach them. For instance, ask your team how they can focus on diversity in the office, or run challenges devoted to inclusion in the workplace weekly. When you’re serious about creating an environment of diversity and featuring inclusive language in written documents, you can truly reap the rewards of a thriving workplace.
- Check external collateral, from job listings to blog content, for gendered language. Avoid using gender-specific pronouns or terms that sound too masculine or feminine.
- Include the correct pronouns for all the people in your organization. If you’re not sure of the correct pronoun to use with any individual, be sure to ask, and apologize if you accidentally misgender someone in documentation.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Business Communication, when managers use inclusive language in both formal and informal situations, creativity and performance increase. When business documents are inclusive, employers can attract and retain top talent, show their team they’re highly valued and create a workplace in which everyone is proud to work. It’s a win-win.