INDIANAPOLIS — “What are your pronouns?”
It’s a question that the majority of people have likely heard, whether it’s directed towards them or someone else.
Pronouns are something we use every day, whether we realize it or not. However, many peoples’ gender is still typically assumed based on appearance or their name, which can cause discomfort or gender dysphoria, even if it wasn’t intended to be offensive.
Of course, mistakes happen, and it’s encouraged to just apologize, correct yourself and move on from it. Don’t make a scene or draw a lot of attention, just a simple “sorry, I meant [this pronoun]. Anyways,” is perfect.
To avoid running into the problem altogether, many have started to include pronouns in their social media bios and email signatures, letting people know their identities upfront and sidestepping a potentially awkward situation. Not only does it prevent accidental misgendering, but it also shows respect and provides a sense of community — and, according to a recent study, attracts potential employees.
Butler University’s Dr. India Johnson studies something called “identity safety cues,” which are signals that help minorities feel valued in certain environments. She aims to understand how people can promote concrete methods of inclusion.
“We thought these cues might be particularly important for LGBTQ+ persons,” Johnson said in a press release. “If you’re part of that population, there might not always be some visible sign that an organization is going to value you. We were interested to see if using pronouns promoted a more positive perception of companies among the LGBTQ+ community.”
The study included members all across the LGBTQ+ spectrum with a wide variety of pronouns, who all viewed an employee bio for a fictional organization. A control group viewed a version with only basic information, and the other group saw a bio that included the employee’s “she/her/hers” pronouns.
Results showed that the bio with pronouns had more positive results, where the individuals expressed that they had a greater sense the company would treat all employees fairly. Disclosing pronouns signalled to them that the employees and employers at the organization were allies for their LGBTQ+ colleagues.
“Optional pronoun disclosure should be one part of many organizational practices to support LGBTQ+ persons,” Johnson said. “It’s a simple policy that’s as easy as sending an email to your employees saying the company wants to improve inclusivity by normalizing the practice of disclosing gender pronouns, and encouraging them to add pronouns to their directory bios and email signatures.”