SHRM Connect: Gender Pronouns in Email Signature


SHRM Connect is an online community where SHRM members can ask questions and get answers on a variety of HR topics. It’s a great place to network with other HR professionals and share solutions.  

The conversation topics range from “HR Department of One” to Employment Law, are always insightful, and deal with some of the most pressing issues that HR professionals face in the workplace today.

While some of the conversations take on a more serious tone, others will deliver a bit of comic relief -- and on Fridays, I’ll be highlighting a conversation or two in hopes that you’ll take some time to visit. You may want to "lurk"… perhaps respond, but you’ll always learn something.  

It’s a great community and I highly recommend checking it out.


Today's conversation highlights the use of gender pronouns in email signatures.

In the General HR group, a poster writes:

I was hoping for a little direction in regards to gender pronouns in email signature lines.  As of last week, the ED decided she wants to make it mandatory for all staff to add gender pronouns to their signature line.  The reason for this is we are a gender friendly environment, but our newest staff  member has a male name, Gerald.  However, she is not transgender, she is a female but that's the name she was given at birth which is due to her family culture.  When she applied for the position she had her pronouns in her signature line, but some staff still implied she was transgender. So this is the second reason why this has come about.

I have one staff person that has objections and I see her point, but not sure if we can make this mandatory for staff or if it should be optional for some staff.  The other part is we don't have a policy in place.   DC has no laws in place for this type of issue, so I'm hoping to hear from others if you've had experience with this type of issue. Below are the gender pronouns and the email from the employee, if this helps.

The gender pronoun options are below:

  • she, her, hers
  • he, him, his
  • she/her/hers and they/them/theirs
  • he/him/his and they/them/theirs

While I understand the premise and good intentions behind a push like this, I think that self-disclosure is empowering and forced-disclosure further distracts from our ability to achieve a life where people, regardless of color, creed, religion or sexual orientation, are to be respected as equal humans worthy of respect and love; not as enforced by rules, but by our character. I think we ostracize individuals when we require staff to report their personal convictions or personal truths. For example, pronoun use disregards the intersex (formerly referred to as hermaphrodite) and asexual community and further burdens their personal identity journey. Also, if I state that my personal convictions are in conflict with me being required to disclose my gender-identity, given that it doesn't tangibly impact my ability to do my job, I chance being ostracized because of people's perception of my unwillingness to participate; I chance being labeled as either homophobic or unsure about my gender identity, though both conclusions are equally untrue. This is the same fear (discrimination, being ostracized, etc.) of someone that is struggling within the LGBTQ community, but simply impacting a different group.

Click here to read/respond to the conversation. 





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