Inclusion | Why BBC asked staff to use gendered pronouns in emails

Why BBC asked staff to use gendered pronouns in emails

Workplace inclusion is a top priority for HR.

A plethora of research has pointed towards both the individual and business benefits of fostering an inclusive company culture.

Research conducted by BetterUp found that a high feeling of belonging among employees was linked to a 56% rise in job performance, as well as a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 27% reduction in sick days – Harvard Business Review reported.

To be more inclusive of transgender employees, the broadcasting behemoth, BBC, has asked staff to state their gender pronouns on work email signatures.

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According to the Evening Standard, staff have been asked to disclose their preferred pronouns such as ‘she/her’, ‘he/him’ or ‘they/them’.

Internal surveys at the organisation unearthed that two per cent of the 22,000-strong workforce identified as transgender.

A BBC Spokeswoman said: “The BBC isn’t requiring anyone to do anything; there is simply a staff article on our intranet that talks about gender identity at work and the use of pronouns.

"This topic is a live issue in many workplaces.”

According to the Times, the information posted to the company’s intranet called the initiative a “small, proactive step that we can all take to help create a more inclusive workplace”.

Kate Williams, Head of Private Sector Memberships at Stonewall – the charity that campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people across Britain – welcomed the news, adding that it was ‘good to hear the BBC encouraging staff to use pronouns on email signatures’.

“Not only do pronouns in email signatures help co-workers refer respectfully to one another, but they also ensure staff avoid mistakes, like misgendering someone, which can be especially hurtful for trans people, but also embarrassing for those who aren’t trans,” Williams explained.

Yet, Stonewall’s Head of Private Sector Memberships added that the requirement for staff to include gender pronouns in email signatures shouldn’t be mandatory. “For various reasons, both trans and non-trans staff may not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns and this should be respected,” Williams added.

Virgin Management gave staff the option of including pronouns on email signatures

The BBC isn’t the only employer to have given staff the option of adding gender pronouns to their email signatures.

Virgin Management quickly realised how important pronouns are in the workplace for cultivating happy and inclusive environments.

In a statement previously released on the firm’s website, it read: “At Virgin, we believe that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should have the right to be who they are, wherever they are.

“It’s important to our people, their families, our business partners and customers,” the statement added.

For those employers wanting to take a similar approach regarding the use of pronouns in emails, Idealist.org shared four key tips.

HR should involve transgender and non-binary employees in the decision-making and implementation process.

Providing general identity and expression training for staff can help them understand the basics and ensure that no one is misgendered.

Ensure that pronoun usage is voluntary.

In addition, pronouns are personal, and they should be chosen and written by the person using them. They should never be assigned by anyone else.



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Comments (2)

  • Can't give a name in
    Can't give a name in
    Mon, 13 Jul 2020 6:16pm BST
    Less than 2% driving the responses & behaviours of the whole organisation for 'fear' of upsetting someone...probably & most likely wholly inadvertently....but does it require being so prescriptive in writing and applying such policies.... especially where even Stonewall think some of that 2% won't feel comfortable being identified?
  • Claudia B
    Claudia B
    Mon, 13 Jul 2020 1:16pm BST
    "When crafting a policy like this, HR should involve transgender and non-binary employees in the decision-making process." and
    “For various reasons, both trans and non-trans staff may not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns and this should be respected,"
    So why are we recommending a policy on this if we recognise some people won't be comfortable? Why make them even more uncomfortable by having them have to make a decision on this and being seen by their colleagues that they haven't?
    It's not mandatory no but certainly their colleagues will notice if they don't..
    And why only consult the people that believe that pronouns proscribe identity?

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