He/She/They: Why Pronouns in the Workplace Matter

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Intuit’s mission to power prosperity around the world is supported by our values and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. A huge part of driving ‘belonging’ lies within Intuit’s 11 employee networks. Every employee should feel like they can bring their whole self to work and feel like they belong and can do the best work of their life at Intuit.

Intuit’s Pride Network is a community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Allied employees that strive to innovate their approach to equality, inclusion while supporting each other at Intuit and beyond. As a network they focus on education to eliminate stereotypes and unconscious bias, develop diversity and inclusion training programs, and organize initiatives to help ensure Pride is a global and boundary-less community.

While to some, the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ may have similar meanings, there is an important distinction between each of these words. “Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.” Belonging is feeling like you’re building a meaningful friendship with a group of people you’re dancing with. Feeling that you can just be and exist as who you are without criticism or the need to defend your own identity. That feeling of belonging doesn’t come easy for everyone.

Transgender people struggle with this form of belonging in many facets of life, including work. So what can we do, as allies, to help bring awareness around the discrimination transgender people still face in the workplace? Let’s start with pronouns.

Pronouns in the workplace

Intuit’s Tucson Pride leader noticed the addition of pronouns on an email signature of a colleague. She was inspired by this and suggested that this practice could be leveraged by employees throughout the company.

A few weeks later, another member of the Tucson Pride leadership team, discovered that employees could add their chosen pronouns to our employee messaging system. That sparked a great conversation amongst the Pride team for all employees to be intentional with the use of pronouns and to show support for our colleagues’ chosen identities.

In the spirit of fostering an inclusive work environment, The Self-Employed Segment Culture Club – whose charter is to fuel a grassroots movement to continually improve and refine the way we work – built the fields in Slack for personal pronouns and name pronunciation.

So what’s the big deal?

Why should we care about something as innocuous as pronouns? It’s important because representation and visibility matter, especially for members of our community that may be going through a transition. For those of us that identify as male or female, navigating the world seems pretty straight forward. We go to our perspective restrooms, we dress accordingly based on our genders and we have the privilege of navigating societal norms and not feeling like imposters in our own bodies. But this thinking may leave out some of our LGBTQ+ community.

Those that are transgender, queer, or non-binary may often have to navigate the “gray” area. There are members of our community that are actively transitioning and for some colleagues who may not be aware and may not know how to address someone without potentially being offensive. Adding chosen pronouns to communications also serves as an avenue to start a conversation if anyone has questions around the topic. While using the incorrect pronoun for these individuals may be unintentional, it can be hurtful and demoralizing. We should never assume someone’s gender.

The importance of supporting small gestures like email signatures serve as a reminder: We SEE you for who you are, who you CHOOSE to be and most importantly affirming that you BELONG here at Intuit.

Intuit is a company that strives to continually innovate our products and services. In the same way, our culture is core to who we are as a company and includes how we treat our employees, their unique identities as well as how we can continue to build practices that support diversity and inclusion.

While we’re proud of the work Intuit has done as a company to support diversity and inclusion to support our Pride Network, including the launch of our LGBTQ+ Ally Program, partnerships with organizations that address under-represented minorities like Lesbians Who Code, and addressing unconscious bias in hiring, we know our work is far from done. We believe that diversity isn’t something we do—it’s who we are. We’ll continue to focus on diversity in the workplace and increasing visibility for underrepresented minorities to reflect the customers we serve.

While recognizing pronouns is one action everyone can immediately take today, a small gesture goes a long way. In addition, when addressing groups of colleagues, use gender-neutral terminology such as “Hi all”, “Hey team”, or “Hi folks”, rather than terms like “Hi guys”.

Whether you work at Intuit or at any other company, everyone can help play a part in making sure all people, regardless of their gender, feel like they belong.

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