Pronouns are ubiquitous in our everyday language. They help us communicate with and about each other, besides our names alone. But these tiny words carry more weight than just communication. As researchers at the American Journal of Public Health put it, “Pronouns Are a Public Health Issue.” You likely already know this if you’re trans or gender-diverse. Research shows that trans employees’ wellbeing is better when inclusive language is used at work.
When you’re in the job interview or application process, being up front with what your pronouns are may be intimidating in a professional setting. And though it’s up to employers to create a safe and welcoming environment for gender-diverse workers, that doesn’t always happen. Trans and gender-diverse people experience employment discrimination and harassment at 2.2 and 2.5 times, respectively, the rate of their cisgender peers.
But despite this, there are ways to feel prepared while on the job hunt if you are gender-diverse. We spoke with Lexi Adsit, the executive director of TransCanWork, a California-based organization that provides job training and career support as well as inclusive workplace training for employers. Adsit shares key steps to feeling confident, as well as advice on how to go about sharing your pronouns.
How to share your pronouns in an interview
In some ways, it’s quite simple. Adsit says you can share your pronouns right when you introduce yourself. “The easiest way to do that is to just say, ‘Hey, my name is, [insert your name here] and these are my pronouns, and I’m excited to be considered a candidate for this position,’” she says.
In the coming years, Adsit predicts sharing pronouns from the get-go of meeting someone will become the norm. “That’s something that people just have to get used to and learn the benefits of,” she says. By normalizing the use of pronouns when introducing yourself and in daily conversations—whether you’re transgender, gender-diverse, or cisgender—we can create a more inclusive system and destigmatize sharing pronouns.
Including pronouns on your resume or LinkedIn
You also have the option to share pronouns in a variety of digital ways before you make it to an interview—on your resume, LinkedIn, or other social media profiles. Adsit says LinkedIn adding the option to include pronouns is a welcome development.
If you’re comfortable including your pronouns on your profile you can and should. But, still, for job seekers, “it’s totally up to their comfort level,” Adsit shares. “I totally want to recognize that some people don’t feel comfortable [doing so], and that’s the unfortunate reality of employers not being ready for a gender-diverse workforce.”
How to correct others if they use the wrong pronouns
Adsit says pronoun misuse can be a terrifying experience for gender-diverse folks. She hopes that most of the time, it’s a common mistake. If it does happen though, think of correcting someone as if you are correcting them on how to pronounce your name or as if they misremembered something listed on your resume.
Adsit says you could respectfully interrupt someone in the moment to say, “My pronouns are actually, [insert your pronouns here].” She continues, “If you do it in a way that’s respectful towards someone and you’re just looking to correct them, they’ll correct themselves.” Start by giving the interviewer the benefit of the doubt and allowing them time to take your correction into account. However, Adsit warns, you shouldn’t have to correct them twice. “If it does become a pattern, then you know then that maybe that isn’t the best place to work.”
What if it doesn’t go well?
Adsit emphasizes that it’s the employer’s responsibility to create a workplace that’s inclusive and welcoming. But, unfortunately, it’s critical to prepare for the worst case scenario in case sharing your pronouns doesn’t go well during an interview. To do so, Adsit says have a plan and tap into your support network.
Perhaps that means asking a friend to text you after you have an interview or pick you up afterwards to grab ice cream. Make sure you’re able to step away from a potentially hostile environment, whether that means physically leaving the interview location or stepping away from the computer if you’re at home.
“Do you need to vent? Do you need to record what just happened? Do you need to talk to a manager or write an email?” Adsit asks. Figure out what you may need in the case that you experience discrimination or harassment in order to lean on your community—friends, loved ones, professional peers—to support you. If you do need to report an incident of discrimination in a job interview, you can file a case with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The bottom line: you’re not alone
Above all else, Adsit wants gender-diverse job seekers to know that you are not alone. Training organizations are working to educate employers on how to build inclusive workplaces, and legal advocacy groups can educate you about your rights or help you fight against harassment and discrimination if it happens to you.
“I’ll be real: I don’t have a magical answer that solves all the problems,” says Adsit. “We should just be able to share our pronouns at face value and have that respected.”Cisgender workers can help by normalizing sharing pronouns. Share your own pronouns, make a point to ask someone’s pronouns, and correct yourself or others if you or a colleague makes a mistake.
Adsit adds that changing norms around social interactions should be expected. In the workplace, 12-hour work days, seven days a week used to be expected. Then, thanks to the labor movement, that changed. New norms around pronouns don’t have to be overwhelming, Adsit emphasizes. It just takes practice and normalizing it. Keep in mind that there’s likely someone who will benefit from having a work environment where their pronouns are honored. “That really can make a huge difference in somebody feeling accepted and welcomed in a space, versus not,” she shares.
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