The Law Society has received a mixed response to its guide on "how to communicate and use pronouns correctly in the workplace".
It produced the guide to educate lawyers that judging by name or appearance "is not always an accurate method for determining a person’s pronouns", as employees may have opted to use "gender expansive" pronouns such as 'they, them and theirs'.
Its top tip for lawyers is to not use male or female pronouns for a person until it‘s clear how the individual self-identifies. "Try to get into the habit of using ‘they/them’ until you know someone’s pronouns", suggests the guide. "For example: ‘There is someone here to see you. I will ask them to take a seat’".
If lawyers are struggling to establish a person's pronouns, they should speak up, explains the guide, and "Discreetly ask people what their pronouns are, for example: 'Sorry, I didn’t catch your pronouns'".
Lawyers who do know someone's pronouns can help everyone else by deploying them in an introduction, "for example: 'This is Jen, they work in finance. This is Fred, he works in marketing'.
The Law Society said it was "good practice for us to normalise sharing our pronouns", which "helps raise awareness and acceptance of different, including non-binary, gender identities".
When the Law Society tweeted its guide last weekend with the message that "We should all strive to use any & every opportunity to practice [sic] inclusion", over 2,000 people chimed in with their reactions.
The public's response was mixed, boiling down to two ideologically-opposed camps, one of which applauded the Law Society for "being respectful of others, unlike the majority of comments here", while the other suggested, "This has all gone way too far".
The drive for pronouns and gender-neutral language to support non-binary identities has been picked up by law firms including Clifford Chance as a matter of diversity and inclusion, and increasing numbers of businesses, including the professional networking site LinkedIn, have begun providing the option for people to add their pronouns to their profiles and signature blocks.