Understanding gender identity and the use of Personal Gender Pronouns at work

What is gender identity and Personal Gender Pronouns (PGPs)?

Stonewall, a leading charity in the UK that stands for the rights of individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning and/or Ace (LGTBQ+), have defined gender identity as an individual’s innate sense of their own gender.

In some cases, an individual’s gender identity may differ from the gender or sex assigned to them at birth, or they may be gender-fluid or have no gender.

There are a number of steps that individuals may choose to take in the process of gender reassignment, two of which include changing their name and/or changing their pronouns, the latter of which is known as their Personal Gender Pronouns (PGPs).

As well as the gender-specific PGPs (e.g., he/him and she/her), there are a series of gender-neutral (otherwise known as non-binary) pronouns that include they/them/their or hir/zie/xe.

It is important that employers understand the impact of mis-gendering or using the wrong pronouns and look for ways to improve understanding and support in the workplace.

How can we be more inclusive and use PGPs in the workplace?

There are plenty of steps that employers can take to improve inclusivity in the workplace and to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals feel understood.

The most important thing to be aware of is that you shouldn’t force anyone to reveal their gender identity if they do not want to.

Individuals may want to keep this information private and it is entirely their decision as to whether they wish to do so.

Furthermore, forcing someone to disclose their gender at work is discriminatory.

Ways that you, as employers, can support and/or encourage inclusivity include:

  • Not making assumptions about a person’s gender identity. Ask an individual about their preferred pronouns, or if you feel uncomfortable asking, you could start by introducing your own. They/them is also a safe option to use initially to refer to someone if you’re not yet aware and/or worried about misgendering.
  • Including your personal pronouns after your name in your email signatures can help normalise the gesture. You may also choose to provide your PGPs in your internal communications and work-based social media. If an employee chooses to include their PGPs, you should not ask them to remove it, challenge them or make any judgements about the employee based on that information.
  • Checking that any forms for staff and customers have the option for no title or Mx (a non-binary title). This could begin as early as the recruitment process, where there are plenty of forms that may otherwise include titles, genders or previous names.
  • Providing communication guides and diversity/inclusion training that include familiarising all staff with non-binary pronouns and how they are appropriately used.
  • Assessing and providing robust policies, including equal opportunities and gender identity policies.
  • Considering other practical barriers, and the potential solutions, such as gender-neutral toilets, gender-neutral uniforms, and flexibility in staff photos during an individual’s transition.
  • Ensuring staff are aware of the procedures in place to complain or report bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace. All staff should feel able to raise a report safely and that their concerns would be dealt with seriously.

There are many ways in which you can improve the inclusivity within your workplace and ensure that all your staff feel comfortable and safe at work.

If you want to learn more, you can read the CIPD’s factsheet on Sexual orientation, gender identity, gender reassignment and employment.

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