Monday, June 24, 2024

Business leaders who reject pronouns say it’s “too confusing”

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Company leaders are often rejecting workers’ pronouns for being “too confusing,” a new workplace study found.

Roughly 15 percent of business leaders in a Resume Builder survey say they’re unwilling to use they/them pronouns, and 10 percent outright won’t use transgender employees’ preferred pronouns.

These statistics might be jarring as companies continue to engage in conversations around how to boost inclusivity and increase retention for a workforce that is increasingly demanding employers align with their values and identity.

The conversation over pronouns has even entered U.S. law, as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) added workplace bias protections that would secure transgender employees’ rights to use their preferred pronouns and bathroom. It would also protect workers who had received abortions from being discriminated against within the workforce.

Demonstrators on January 19, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland, protest the U.K. government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament. Employers in the United States cite confusion…


Ken Jack/Getty Images

The business leaders surveyed said that traditional views were the largest reason for their opposition to they/them pronouns. Around 64 percent of the nearly 900 surveyed leaders who aren’t willing to accept pronouns said they don’t believe you can choose your own pronouns, while 40 percent said it was “too confusing.”

As companies look to adapt to the new protections in place, it’s likely new rules around pronouns and gender identity acceptance will change, the report indicated.

“Workplace guidelines are there to help set a standard across organizations for behavior. When there are clear expectations, it allows human resources and managers to hold people accountable to treating everyone with the same level of respect,” Resume Builder’s Resume and Career Strategist Julia Toothacre said in a statement. “These evolving guidelines will hopefully help those in the trans community feel more comfortable at work but also be more comfortable reporting discriminatory behavior.”

Some transgender employees already feel their companies are failing them when it comes to bathroom usage. In the report, 16 percent of companies said transgender employees were not able to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity, and 30 percent say only unisex bathrooms are available.

Roughly one in four business leaders didn’t believe transgender employees should have access to the bathroom that matched their gender identity at all, and just 52 percent said they should be able to use the bathroom of their choice.

If you ask HR consultant Brian Driscoll, there’s one word he’d impart to job seekers dealing with employers who refuse their gender pronouns: “Run.”

“The refusal of some business leaders to use employees’ preferred pronouns underscores a fundamental disregard for individual identity and respect in the workplace,” Driscoll told Newsweek. “This stance is not only socially regressive but also poses significant risks from both legal and employee retention perspectives.”

The legal implications of refusing an employee’s pronouns can be pretty severe as well, potentially leading to lawsuits and business penalties, per EEOC guidelines. These companies also face the more direct consequences of losing employees who are fed up with a workplace culture that doesn’t respect their identity, Driscoll said.

“Employees are likely to leave environments where they feel disrespected and undervalued,” Driscoll said. “This turnover incurs substantial costs and can damage a company’s reputation, making it difficult to attract top talent.”

While business leaders may say they aren’t adapting to the evolving social norms because of confusion or religious beliefs, they rarely have problems adapting to new technology or market trends, Driscoll said.

“The real issue here is a willful ignorance or refusal to acknowledge gender identity,” Driscoll said. “Employers take the time to learn new employees’ names, why can’t they do the same with pronouns? It’s really not that hard.”