The once-overlooked pronoun has earned an essential role in the professional world.
From “she/her/hers” and “he/him/his” to the non-binary “they/them/theirs” and “ze/zir/zirs,” pronouns now appear on email signatures, Zoom screens, business cards, name tags, LinkedIn profiles, and more.
Their usage has gained increased attention as workplaces, and society, turns a spotlight on greater inclusion. “They” earned the honor of Merriam-Webster’s 2019 Word of the Year as lookups for the term soared.
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the ability to easily self-identify is liberating. For allies, sharing pronouns is a public way to show support. For those who don’t understand the purpose — or feel uncomfortable using non-gendered pronouns — it can be confusing, even frustrating.
Those varying stances are to be expected, say diversity experts and advocates.
“We are in uncharted territory,” says India Martin, CEO and founder of the coaching and consulting firm Leadership For Execs. And despite the nuanced conversations, one thing is certain: “Every person has the right to identify themselves as they’d like,” she says. “It’s about respecting each other’s humanity.”