We already use ‘they’ as a pronoun without realising it all the time – so it should not be an issue to accommodate it when talking to our colleagues in the office, according to executive coach Julie Tarney.
Tarney (pictured) specialises in diversity and inclusion coaching, is mother of a non-binary child and shared her key findings for how to build inclusive cultures in the insurance industry.
Speaking at diversity and inclusion in insurance festival Dive In, Tarney called on delegates to be more inclusive and use ‘they’ more often as a singular pronoun.
She added that people use ‘they’ all the time without realising it, citing the example of where someone leaves their mobile phone on a table at the end of a conference session.
“You wouldn’t say someone left his or her cellphone there. You would say their,” Tarney said.
For those working with non-binary colleagues, she likened the situation to someone who has changed their name after just getting married.
“If someone changes their last name after they get married or hyphenates names, you may make a mistake with the new name, but you would adjust pretty quickly,” she continued.
“Or if their name is William and they ask you to call them Bill, it’s no burden to use a person’s name or to use pronouns that are shared with us.”
Other top tips include assuming there will be LGBTQ+ people at any gathering.
Tarney emphasised that it is not possible to tell if someone is queer or trans just by looking at them so asking appropriate questions, giving your own pronouns and asking a person about theirs is important.
When receiving answers, Tarney added you should not express an opinion and definitely avoid asking invasive questions or offering backhanded compliments such as ‘you look just like a real woman, or you’d pass so much better if…’
Tarney also called on delegates to do their own internet research on LGBTQ+ issues, to be aware of LGBTQ+ issues and know about LGBTQ+ legislation in the works.
She urged them to diversify their media consumption, to be empathetic and accountable, and to speak up and stand up where they witness disrespect to say something.
But ultimately, Tarney told delegates, being courageous does not require perfection.
“Part of learning a skill is being willing to learn to make mistakes and you will. If you do, just correct yourself.
“You just to have to say, if you say he instead of they, I mean they. No long apologies are needed,” she added.