At the University of Wollongong (UOW), we understand that building a sense of belonging helps to bring out the best in employees. We recognise the importance of nurturing staff relationships founded on mutual trust and respect, enabling people to bring their whole selves to work rather than hiding their identities.
One simple, inclusive practice we thought would assist us in working better together is learning to pronounce people’s names correctly and using their preferred pronouns.
Correctly pronouncing an individual’s name is a fundamental sign of respect. Similarly, sharing our pronouns with others (they/them, she/her or he/him) disrupts the culture of making assumptions, and provides the information needed to refer to someone appropriately.
How it happened
- The Associate Deans for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (AD-EDIs) at UOW approached the Strategic Marketing and Communications Division (SMCD), Information Management & Technology Services (IMTS) and Research Services Office (RSO) to identify processes we could use to encourage staff to voluntarily add their pronouns and name pronunciation to all work-related platforms.
- We formed a project team with representatives from AD-EDIs, SMCD and IMTS and met regularly to discuss ideas and progress.
- We devised methods and clear user guidelines to enable staff to add their pronouns and pronunciation to the institutional external-facing academic profile platform and the institutional staff listing web pages.
- Our awareness campaign targeted the whole University. We provided staff with links (to the Minus18 pronouns guide, for example) via a newsletter to educate themselves about the importance of using someone’s preferred pronouns and not making assumptions about their gender.
- The Vice-Chancellor and many Senior Executives incorporated pronouns into their email signatures, lending visible top-down support for the initiative.
- Next, we picked Faculty of Business and Law to pilot the initiative.
- This began with sending an email to staff within the Faculty informing them of the initiative. The Heads of Schools and Discipline Leaders helped us to promote the initiative to the staff.
- An Excel spreadsheet was developed with the names of all full-time staff in each school, with columns for adding the pronouns and the pronunciation of their names.
- Then, the School Administrative Managers emailed all staff with the link to the Excel sheet, allowing them to update their pronouns and pronunciation.
- Staff received reminder emails, and the Faculty’s AD-EDI attended discipline meetings and encouraged staff to use the link to update their details.
Approximately 20% of staff members, including some of the Faculty’s senior leaders, voluntarily added their pronouns, pronunciation or both to the list. Finally, the list was used to update the Faculty staff listings.
In addition, many staff began using their pronouns and/or pronunciation in email signatures, Zoom, Webex, the Scholar page and other platforms.