Last Updated on December 13, 2022 by Stacey Smith

Written by Helen Patterson (she/her) , LL.B., LL.M. Founder, Life Works Well.

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A few months ago, a HirePower survey found that a little under half of the employers had a formal pronoun program in place. Even among organizations with no plans for a program, many leaders and managers are declaring their pronoun preferences. This is indicative of a broader trend around gender and identity, and employers should be taking note so they can include it in their broader diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies.

There are many facets to building an equitable and diverse organization where everyone feels valued and appreciated for who they are, and addressing preferred names and pronouns is a great place to start.

In fact, 74% of people in a recent poll say that employers should learn and use their employees’ preferred names and pronouns, and 65% want to see employers intervening where there is a deliberate misuse of identities.[1] While the majority of larger employers have policies in place that forbid gender discrimination, an astonishing 60% of transgender employees have experienced workplace discrimination.[2]

Inclusive Language

Creating inclusive workplaces means using inclusive language. Beyond pronouns and names, there are other opportunities to use language to help all employees feel safe, respected, and valued. Here are some tips for introducing more inclusive ways of communicating in your organization:

  • Have leaders use neutral greetings, such as “hello, team” instead of the traditional “ladies and gentlemen” when they open a meeting or a video call (Bonus: this models the behaviour for individual contributors)

  • Review your job descriptions and job postings for gendered statements like “he or she will…” and replace them with “they will” or “the incumbent/candidate will”
  • Audit the forms and other documents used in your hiring and onboarding process to ensure a great first impression from the very start of your candidates’ and employees’ journeys
  • If you are collecting gender and pronoun information on forms, leave the response fields open, instead of creating categories. This allows employees to respond accurately while eliminating the risk of leaving out a key group or relegating some people to “other” status
  • Eliminate honorifics such as “Mr., Ms., Mrs.” or replace them with “Mx”.
  • Review your policies and procedures documents for terms such as “manpower”, “waitress” or “chairman” and replace them with neutral versions such as “staffing”, “server” or “chair”
  • Encourage (but don’t mandate) employees to share their pronoun preferences in their email signatures, professional biographies and on LinkedIn
  • Create a process through which employees can safely and discreetly report non-inclusive resources
  • Engage employees in ongoing discussions about how inclusivity should work in your organization, through language and beyond
  • Use inclusive photos and videos as well to communicate that your organization is a safe place for all

HirePower works with experts, including Life Works Well, to help some of Canada’s best employers create and nurture inclusive workplaces. Call us today to discuss how you can build a culture where everyone can reach their fullest potential.