Pronouns signal you want to be an ally

Allies signal to others that they want to be inclusive.

Inclusive leaders are curious. They likely ask more questions and don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room. They know it’s less about them having the answers and more about them finding the answers inclusively. While it’s better to avoid exclusion before it happens, asking questions can make a difference even after exclusion has occurred, and help prevent it from happening in the future.

Allies cannot self-proclaim to be allies.  It is rather in the eye of the beholder where allies can be recognized and appreciated.  That means for all of us allies in training, it is more about signalling to others you want to be inclusive versus taking up space and singing from roof tops.

As an ally, it is not about you.

Eeryday actions can signal to others that you want to be an ally. One example of how to do this is using a person’s chosen name and desired pronouns.  This is a form of mutual respect and a basic courtesy to be modeled by leaders.

When you add your pronouns to your email signature and or social media accounts and even on your virtual technology platform right behind your name, it shows people who are different from you that you understand, are open to learning, and that you empathize. You may not fully understand the nuances of pronouns, but you’re not putting the full burden of people that could potentially be misgendered or identify as gender non-binary to have to shoulder the challenges associated with different gender identities.

Inclusive leaders are familiar with some key gender identity vocabulary words. For example, cisgender simply means you identify as the same gender of which you were assigned at birth. Gender non-binary means that someone doesn’t exclusively identify as male or female. They may use the pronouns they or them. This is perfectly appropriate and grammatically correct.  

Allies learn more about things they do not understand.

If pronouns are newer to you, or you are having trouble processing the thought of using “they” to describe a singular person, check out these guides and trusted resources.

Allies advocate for systemic change.

Diversity and inclusion is a cultural transformation. It’s not a one-and-done or check-the-box activity or even an initiative. That means we need to recognize achievements along the journey because there is no end destination. The work always continues.  Consider ways you can signal you want to be an ally beyond your everyday behavior.  Think about how you could drive deeper more systemic changes at your organization, community, and beyond.

Inclusive leaders find actionable areas that will make the biggest impact on improving the employee experience.  Think about your employee experience from start to finish. From recruiting to hiring to onboarding to performance management to promotions to pay increases to separation. Map out the journey your employees go through. 

Measure each step of the process and think about:

  • How much are we actively recruiting and hiring diverse talent?
  • How much are we losing diverse talent versus the majority group? 
  • How do pay increases and promotions differ across these groups? 

As with anything in business, we measure what matters. Inclusive leaders hold themselves accountable to inspect what they expect.  Celebrate success, your team needs it to want to achieve more and do more hard things.  Baby steps matter.  There are many ways to be an ally.  Speak up.  See something, say something.  You will be a better human for it.

If you liked this article, share it with a friend, check out our Diversity Pivot Podcast for entertaining stories about inclusive leadership, or schedule time with Julie if you are interested in bringing this content to your organization.  We also have a brand new virtual self-paced Lead Like an Ally course to check out!