Workplace Advice

Displaying pronouns on your LinkedIn profile or email footer

Seb York
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Should we display our pronouns on LinkedIn profiles or email footers? Is there an actual need for that?

This has been a top topic of many diversity debates and discussions. After some reflections, I have appreciated that adding pronouns to the social media profile or an email footer was not about my own distinctiveness (I am a cisgender – my personal identity and gender corresponds with my birth sex) but it was about people who identify their gender differently to their birth sex, often in other ways than those ordinarily used on equality monitoring forms in late 90’s.

When devising HR policies and processes, discussing other people, advertising vacancies etc. I have been using gender neutral pronouns for about 10 years now, which should have alerted me to the rightness of this a long time ago.

Recently, I have come across a fantastic article which explained the need for displaying pronouns in a concise and logical way.

"For some transgender and nonbinary individuals, including visible pronouns isn’t always comfortable or safe. If someone is newly transitioning at work, sharing pronouns can ‘out’ them before they are ready. And for those who are ‘out’, it can often prompt lengthy questions and conversations that a person may not feel comfortable engaging with.

For cisgender individuals, sharing your pronouns comes with little or no risk. Instead, it normalises the practice and creates a more open and inclusive space for your transgender and nonbinary colleagues to do the same."

(Troughton, M., 2020)

At the time when LinkedIn rolled out a new feature allowing to add pronouns to users’ profiles, I was seeing more individuals adding them on other platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Most recently, I have run a quick LinkedIn poll to see if the trend was taking off the ground and understand people’s perceptions.

67% respondents did not include their pronouns on LinkedIn or email footers, with 20% already doing so. 12% was thinking about it, which is a great result that indicated the need for this type of discussions. Many cisgender colleagues and peers messaged me to say that this logical explanation allowed them to see the necessity for more open-minded approach, as if something was helping others and did not harm you, then it should have been a common practice. For me equality and inclusion are, and rightly should be, human rights, hence if by sharing my own pronouns I can help eliminate stigma around gender identity, I will do it. Subsequently, displayed pronouns could help avoid awkward moments after wrongly assuming someone’s gender.

You might be thinking that mainly people who are ‘out’ or HR professionals would be supportive of the trend, however, the poll showed slightly different results.

HR, recruitment, and mental health professionals are encouraging it, but not all of them. On the other hand, participants across all levels of seniority, and from various sectors including finance and insurance, retail, science, education, health and IT, have already added pronouns to their profiles or would consider doing that in the near future.

There is a positive change happening and the display of pronouns is not a ‘fad’ but the next step towards greater equality and inclusion.

So, yes - there is an actual need for that, and the discussion should continue.

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