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How to foster a more gender-inclusive workplace culture

Posted by Shivali Anand

August 12, 2021    |     3-minute read (529 words)

In recent years, more companies have begun to encourage and accept the use of gender-inclusive pronouns. The move toward gender-inclusive environments is meant to boost employee retention and to stand out in the job market as mass quitting becomes a reality.

According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign, employee performance, productivity, retention and mental health are among the work attributes that improve in an LGBTQ+-inclusive environment. A growing number of Gen Z (ages 6-24) talent values and actively seeks out inclusive environments. Companies that want to grow will need to develop a pronoun-inclusive culture.

What are inclusive pronouns?

Some people's personal expressions deviate from traditional gender norms. The pronouns "they," "them," and "their" can be used by employees who are nonbinary and do not identify as either male or female. The majority of millennials believe that gender is actually a continuum and that some people do not fit into conventional gender categories. As a result of the growing influence of millennials, inclusive pronouns will become more and more common.

Pronoun-friendly workplace best practices

To avoid some common pitfalls, business leaders should follow a few best practices.

First off, refrain from mandating the use of pronouns. It can be hurtful to require employees to use pronouns in their email signature, on company social media pages and in their bios. It's possible that some people aren't ready to reveal their pronouns. They may hide them, or they may still be unsure of them. As a result, requiring your team to divulge will do more harm than good.

It also stops voluntary progress when pronoun usage is mandatory. Whenever something is required, people tend to stop learning and growing in that area because they no longer have a choice. LGBTQ+-inclusive workplace requirements can be restrictive for business leaders who hope their workplace culture will be LGBTQ+ friendly. The best approach is to create an environment in which disclosure is optional and expression is protected.

Second, training is crucial for the growth of your business. Persons who are misgendered are identified with a pronoun that does not match their affirmed gender. LGBTQ+-inclusive training is not readily available in many workplaces. Employees who have received adequate training are more likely to feel comfortable sharing and expressing their identities in a work environment. LGBTQ+ allies can also learn how to be more inclusive and welcoming by attending.

As a business leader, you are responsible for determining the best way to train your team. Think about working with an organization like the Ackerman Institute for the Family, which offers training on gender inclusivity, if you've had success with interactive videos or guest speakers in your company. Positive work environments can also be fostered by providing additional training to key leaders, team managers and hiring managers, among other things.

Key takeaways from the study

Businesses must create a safe space for gender expression. Companies adapt quickly to stay competitive as more Gen Z workers enter the workforce every day, looking for companies that share their inclusive values.

Offering inclusion training and promoting -- but not mandating -- gender pronouns are two options for business leaders looking to promote a welcoming work environment.

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