Do you catch yourself defaulting to specific language when you’re meeting one of your peers? Utilizing the correct pronouns in your social and professional interactions can mean the difference between a collaborative and an unwelcoming conversation.
Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun, in this case, a person’s name. Traditionally, languages use gender-specific pronouns including he/him/his for males and she/her/hers for females in English.
This black-and-white thinking often requires us to make assumptions about the person in reference’s gender identity. A person’s gender identity may or may not align with their assigned sex at birth, as gender identity is a personal sense of one’s own gender and is a spectrum. Oftentimes, cis- and trans- gender people identify in a binary manner, either identifying as male or female. Others may identify as genderfluid or non-binary (not identifying as male or female), stressing the importance of respecting a person’s use of “they” as a non-gendered pronoun.
Assuming a person’s gender and pronouns incorrectly can come off as hurtful and inconsiderate, unintentionally invalidating a person’s identity. On the other hand, discussing gender pronouns ahead of time sets a tone of allyship for the LGBTQ+ and non-binary/non-conforming communities.
In recent years, there’s been an effort to encourage introducing oneself by saying something along the lines of: “Hi, my name is Zack and I use the pronouns he/him”. Many companies are introducing the options to include their pronouns in their internal HR and communications platforms. This reduces the risk of misgendering another person and normalizes the use of gender-neutral pronouns.
If a person’s pronouns are unknown, use gender-neutral pronouns or even the person’s name; however, this is only a temporary solution. Though it may seem awkward at first, ask how a person would like to be addressed by using:
“What pronouns do you use?”
“How would you like to be addressed?” or
“What are your pronouns?”
Addressing them correctly is a sign of respect and shows that you care. Doing so can foster a stronger first impression and ultimately, a more collaborative relationship.
More and more often, employees are entering the workplace with gender identities that may be different from what we presume, potentially leading to uncomfortable conversations with colleagues and customers.
As a result, Celonis recently launched our Pronoun Self-Identification campaign, encouraging employees to bring their true selves to work and making the workplace more welcoming and inclusive for everyone. As part of the initiative, Celonauts can enter their pronouns in our internal systems such as Slack and Workday. Celonauts are also encouraged to include their pronouns in their names on Zoom and in their email signatures so they can be addressed in a respectful manner.
Recently, at our Go-to-Market Kickoff, Celonauts from all over the world listened to speakers in upper management from Celonis about our past fiscal year and plans for our upcoming fiscal year. Miguel Milano (he/him), CRO of Celonis, included his pronouns as part of his name on the webinar platform. By having leadership demonstrate inclusivity through their actions, Celonis strives to have this happen at all levels of the organization and to all audiences.
As with any social norm, this will take practice. However, without question, this inclusivity is for the betterment of your social and professional circles. When everyone feels included, we have the opportunity to recognize our true potential.