Pronouns in the workplace: Do they make a difference?

Written by Vicki Foley

I was recently asked by Newydd Housing Group whether Tai Pawb could deliver an inhouse session on using pronouns in the workplace and of course I said we absolutely could. We will always do our best to ensure our facilitators have lived experience, so I reached out to our friends at Trans Aid Cymru and we have partnered up to offer a new Let’s Talk session on Trans Aid Inclusion and Safety, which is now available to all our members and delivered by a trans person (email me for more information 

Adding pronouns to signatures and bio’s is becoming more common place across social media and email signatures, the housing sector is no different and it’s not just Newydd asking, we have seen an increase in members asking for support with the best approach for staff engagement and implementation of this.  

We know that adding pronouns in this way will not remove the inequalities faced by the Trans and non-binary community or solve transphobia, but it can be a basic and straightforward step towards inclusivity, plus as we’ve seen at Tai Pawb, it’s a great way to open up conversations around gender identity and Trans inclusion. 

Pronouns allow people to express how they would like to be addressed. They also show not only that you’re an ally but also that you don’t assume anyone’s gender based on how they look and act, furthermore it’s useful for more gender-neutral names like Charlie, Sam, Alex and Vic for example. 

The “they/them” pronoun will usually be used by people who identify as non-binary, that is, they don’t see themselves as definitively male or female. Famous celebrities who identify in this way are Sam Smith (singer), Demi Lovato (singer, actor) and Elliot Page (actor, who uses both he and they). It is also important to understand that someone’s gender identity (how they feel inside) may not necessarily align with their gender expression (how they look) and also that their appearance (physically and aesthetically) may change over the course of time (just like anyone’s can).  


So why is this important? 

From an inclusivity perspective, everyone deserves the right to be shown dignity and respect and to be addressed and communicated with in their preferred way, but the stats present a picture showing that this isn’t always the case, with LGBTQ+ people and trans people in particular still citing discrimination, lack of support and at worst bullying in their workplaces.  

A report by Stonewall and YouGov’s highlights just how much more progress needs to be made before every LGBTQ+ person in Britain feels accepted for who they are at work. The facts can really speak for themselves around this, particularly the experiences of trans people and here are a few: 

  1. 1 in 4 Trans people aren’t open with anyone at work about being Trans 
  1. 1 in 8 Trans people (12 per cent) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues because of being Trans 
  1. 1 in five Trans people and a third of non-binary people don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.  
  1. Almost 1 in 10 Trans people don’t feel able to use a toilet that they feel comfortable with.  
  1. 1 in 4 Trans people experience homelessness 


So, whilst progress has undoubtedly been made, we still have a way to go.  From a business perspective it is important for employers to recognise that in order to be successful they need their staff to feel confident and that they belong. 


But, what if we get it wrong? 

Tai Pawb consistently hear that people are scared of getting things wrong, saying the wrong thing or causing offence (and unwittingly discriminating). From our perspective the only way to truly get trans inclusion right is to ask – it shows respect and that you want to learn. 

There are some behaviours that are considered transphobic, such as calling someone by their rejected birth name (termed “deadnaming”) and wittingly referring to a person in a way that does not reflect their gender identity (called “misgendering”). Further examples, are questioning someone’s gender, whether they ‘pass’, inappropriate questions about medical treatment, disclosing someone’s trans identity or history without permission (and in some circumstances – this can be a criminal offence) 

 It is important we look out for these behaviours in the workplace to safely correct each other and have effective channels to educate, learn and support people, all of which demonstrates that a person’s identity is taken seriously. 

As well as pronouns there are other practical steps organisations can take, such as: 

  • Creating gender neutral facilities to allow people who don’t fit into traditional gender groups to access them without fear 
  • Updating HR policies with inclusive language 
  • Thinking about data collection and whether gender specific terms are genuinely required 
  • Updating your equality monitoring forms to recognise gender differences 


What next? 

Actively recognising and accepting that people experience discrimination because of their identity makes you an ally, and all allies have a part to play in creating inclusive workplaces. Together we can work towards every person being accepted without exception. 

We would love to hear about your approaches in the workplace. If you have done any work in this area and would like to spread the word – just contact one of our team members.    


If you want to further your learning, we have listed some resources below, but there are lots of others out there too: 

Organisations: Trans Aid Cymru, Stonewall Cymru, Umbrella Cymru, Viva LGBT 

Films/Series: Disclosure, Born Beautiful, The Death and Life Of Marsha P Johnson, Paris is Burning, Born to Be, Tales of the City 

PodcastsACupOfT ( transgender: a new podcast series, What the Trans, Queer Talk 

BooksThe Transgender Issue, Trans Britain: Our Journey from the ShadowsGender Explorers: Our Stories of Growing Up Trans and Changing the World 

Influencers: Kenny Ethan Jones, Nadia Almada, Eddie Izzard, Elliot Page, Demi Lovato, Munroe Bergdof, Travis Alabanza, Fox Fisher, Hannah and Jake Graf 



Transgender: Applies to a person whose gender is different from their “assigned” sex at birth 

Cisgender: Applies to someone whose gender matches their “assigned” sex at birth (ie someone who is not transgender or non-binary 

Non-binary: Applies to a person who does not identify as “male” or “female” 

Genderqueer: Similar to “non-binary” – some people regard “queer” as offensive, others embrace it 

Genderfluid: Applies to a person whose gender identity changes over time 


You can join us on the 16th November during Trans Inclusion Week at our open access ‘Let’s Talk About… Trans inclusion and safety’ session to find out more and ask any questions you may have. Find out more and book your place here