Early in my career, I decided that I would need to learn to play golf to be an executive. Kind of funny to think about now, but it made sense to me at the time. So, after a few crap rounds at the driving range, a friend and I bought a lesson.
As a three-sport athlete, I thought I would kill it right out of the gate. All I needed was a decent teacher. “I’m an athlete,” I thought. “This is a sport. I’m going to be great.”
About four swings into my lesson, my coach gave me a look. “Did you ever play softball?” he asked. I nodded yes. “Yeah, you’re going to suck at this,” he said. Apparently, learning to swing a bat and a golf club are different and it’s hard to change a swing. It was hard not to swing my club like a bat and after a few stray balls that came a little too close to cars, I gave up on golf.
Still got to be an executive, but that’s not my point.
Your Company Can Build Belonging in Communities
Often when I share what I feel when people use the wrong pronouns to refer to me, it reminds me of swinging that club. The grip just felt… strange. Like putting my right foot into the left shoe. I also realize that in the same ways it feels weird to me to hear the wrong pronouns, I know it feels like a new grip to cisgendered people who are learning pronouns.
I don’t want to make excuses for people who get pronouns wrong, but I do think we have to give grace to people who make mistakes. What is my life is a new interaction to them. A whole new world after decades of interacting in a binary world. However, our understanding of the topic and how it works doesn’t have one starting point. There’s no pronoun school for people with good intentions.
That’s where we have an opportunity as corporations to be educators who can help our people become better allies – at work, at home, and in our communities.
Active Allyship: Be Better Allies. Do This.
One hour of pronoun training with me or putting pronouns in your email signature won’t change everything, but it is a starting place. Experts can help your team understand the high level concept, but the next two steps help LGBT+ belonging become part of your culture.
The first is leadership training. Your leaders are external representatives of your organization. They talk to external stakeholders. Each of them needs to know how to respond when someone asks about pronouns in the email signature and what to do when they get pronouns wrong before it becomes a headline.
It also needs to be incorporated into onboarding. One hour of training is great for current employees, but how do you make sure new employees get this information, too? What can you do to incorporate pronouns into your interview process? How do you build belonging from day one?
Investing in education is a start to building belonging and helping introduce people to new concepts. Telling people that something is right and explaining why that something is right are two different things, and they’re both necessary for efficient change. Allies aren’t born out of being told to do something – they’re born out of passion and understanding.
And yes, I can help. Book a meeting here.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.