LearnLet’s Talk: Pronouns

Michelle Zohlman

Michelle Zohlman
writes on May 17, 2021

Hi, I’m Michelle. My pronouns are she/her.

If you’ve seen any of my videos this past year or any of our instructors at Treehouse, you might have become familiar with an introduction like this. Or you might have noticed the addition of pronouns on the screen as we greet you to our content.

Pronouns matter. They are how we refer to other people or talk about someone in the third person. Pronouns are specific and personal to that person. Some of you might be familiar with traditional pronouns such as he/him or she/her, but there are many more than that! 

Pronouns are not assigned to someone’s gender identity. What that means is just because someone identifies as a man doesn’t necessarily mean they use he/him pronouns. What you don’t want to do is assume anyone’s pronouns. Not only can that be hurtful, but it can cause someone to feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and break trust. 

By including pronouns, you are promoting an inclusive environment where folx can show up authentically. It is a privilege not to have to think about your pronouns. As someone who identifies as a womxn and uses she/her pronouns, I have never had to think about my pronouns and whether someone would accept using them. For example, think about how big of a deal it is for someone who is transitioning to a man and changes their pronouns to he/him. Or someone who is gender fluid and uses they/them pronouns. It is a simple and effective way to show someone you care, and that they belong at your company. 

This is something we’ve begun doing internally and externally at Treehouse (and we’re still learning!). We want to be intentional about using pronouns to be inclusive and intentionally change4 the tech industry. Here are some examples:

  1. Introductions: When introducing yourself, do so with your pronouns. For example, you can say, “Hi, my name is Alex, my pronouns are they / them.” I get that it can be a bit awkward at first to introduce yourself like that, but it becomes more normalized as we use it. Plus, doesn’t making someone feel comfortable outweigh the initial awkwardness? 
  2. Email Signature: Another great way to share your pronouns and show others you understand and support them is by including it in your email. Here is an example of mine:

    We even link this website for folx who may be confused so they can learn and participate in using pronouns.
  3. Name Tags/ Badges: Does your company have name badges on their desk? Or you use nametags?  Maybe you’re remote, and you have your name in the corner of Zoom (or whatever service you use)? This is yet another opportunity to include pronouns. Wherever you have names printed, ask your team to put their pronouns next to their name.

On my Zoom, it reads “Michelle (She/Her).” As I mentioned, it reminds people of my pronouns and shows my team. I want them to be their authentic selves. When recruiting, it shows your potential candidates your commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (remember to not just to do it to “appear” committed, people can see through that). 

  1. Signage: Whether you work in a physical office or virtual space, there are many ways you can use signage to remind folx of pronouns. You can print out a chart just like the one below and hang it in the office to remind some of the pronouns that exist.
    Or you can post this or something similar on whatever platform you regularly visit, such as Confluence, Google Drive, or Asana.

How else do you include pronouns at work? If pronouns are new to you, how are you going to begin incorporating them? Let us know in the comments!


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