Pronouns are a fundamental portion of our daily vocabulary. However, when used incorrectly, they can make for a hostile environment, notably for those who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.
In order to address this issue, specifically in workplace, the Equitas Health Institute—an arm of Equitas Health that conducts research and training to eliminate the health disparities that exist within the LGBTQ+ community—has created the first ever “Pronouns and Gender Inclusive Language” e-learning module in collaboration with Yukon Learning.
This e-learning was developed in response to both demand from companies striving to create a more inclusive workplace as well as the recent Supreme Court ruling which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Within the training, the learner is walked through the importance of pronouns and the best practices for using gender-inclusive language. Also, because the Equitas Health Institute developed the module, it is intentionally sensitive and diverse in terms of imagery and materials included.
The Buckeye Flame connected with Julia Applegate, Director of the Equitas Health Institute, to discuss the e-learning module’s creation and importance of pronoun awareness and gender inclusivity in the workplace.
What drove the Equitas Health Institute to create this ‘Pronoun and Gender Inclusive Language’ e-learning module?
A couple of things. Before COVID, the education and training we do was all in person. And that’s our preference, because there’s just something you cannot recreate with an electronic learning module that you get when you’re in person. But, the truth is there are not enough days in the week, not enough hours in the day, not enough people to meet the training needs that are there. So, an e-learning module is a way to get the material to the people who need it at a scale we cannot do.
There was no module like this that we could find, and there’s lots of e-learning and most big scale employers have these modules you have to take online where you learn the best practices for ‘avoiding sexual harassment’ or ‘how to keep your computer password safe’ – there’s tons of modules out there. We were looking around to see if there were any modules around gender-inclusive language and pronouns and we couldn’t find any. So we just said, “let’s make our own”. And then we could be certain that it is the best it can be in terms of being culturally inclusive.
Can you walk us through what’s included in the training?
Basically there are three learning objectives around understanding the importance of pronouns and learning how to use pronouns appropriately. Then, we walk the learner through a couple different scenarios where pronouns matter. Going through those scenarios, you learn about the best practices for utilizing pronouns in a gender-inclusive kind of way.
So, in some cases the material we put together, many people would give you the same recommendations for how to use pronouns. But, what’s different about what we’ve done is that it was people who are transgender working on the project. All of the graphics were done by a queer artist who’s able to make sure the graphics in this kind of learning module are not just out of the box. There are different body sizes, different hairstyles – the characters actually look like they are trans or non-binary or queer. There are a variety of races and a variety of ages and body types. The imagery that goes along with the training is very intentionally diverse.
Why is this training and awareness of pronouns and gender inclusivity so important in the workplace? Because queer people are everywhere. Between the sexual orientation and gender identity queerness, we’re making up about 6% of the population, and that’s growing all the time, especially among millennials and Gen Z. People feel more comfortable being out, so when they’re either out or coming out, it’s important for the workplace to be ready to embrace the community and do it in a way that’s actually going to help.
The reason we’re busy is because there are employers that do care about this and they don’t have all the answers. And, a lot of times they’re afraid to make mistakes, which is completely understandable because when you make a mistake in something like this it’s a human being that you’re getting it wrong with. Therefore, you’re risking if they feel safe at work, if they feel comfortable at work, if they are going to keep coming back to work, or if are they going to file a lawsuit. Now, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace is no longer acceptable nationwide. So, now it’s becoming a legal issue. I think it’s a combination of the employers recognizing a human side and the legal importance of getting this stuff right.
What affect do you hope this will have on LGBTQ+—specifically transgender—employees?
We certainly hope it will make their workplace more comfortable, where they can be their authentic self and go to work and do whatever it is they’re hired to do every day without worrying about being misgendered or being bothered about which restroom they use. They can just go do what they were hired to do.
- Request a demo of the Equitas Health Institute “Pronouns and Gender Inclusive Language” e-learning module.
- Don’t assume pronouns.
- Identify your pronouns when you have the opportunity (e-mail signatures, introductions, etc.).