Discussion on: What's up with the pronouns?

mitchpommers profile image
Mitch Pomery (he/him)

The big reason for stating pronouns is to normalize it. It makes it harder to single someone out because they have pronouns listed if lots of people list their pronouns.

As for where does it stop? When it starts costing something to make a change, then we should really ask if the change is worth it. Referring to someone how they like to be referred to as "he", "she" or "they" is free. Individuals wanting a unique to them title is not, so is it worth it? Will it really make that person happy?

It's the same as using "guys" to refer to a team. Changing your language is free. And even if there are only men on the team, it doesn't mean all of them like being called a guy. It's free to change your language and can make other people feel welcomed and included.

On collecting diversity information:
You can't measure diversity if you don't capture that information. And I agree, we shouldn't need to be capturing that information. But we don't live in a perfect world. Achieving and maintaining diversity takes a conscious effort. I suggest looking into "Micromotives and Macrobehavior" for how a lack of diversity can occur, even when no one wants it to.

sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

I think you formulate what seems to be the general opinion well. The normalization is surely the strongest argument and you might be right in forecasting that effect.

I think the border being defined as whether or not something is free is a difficult marker and should not be considered as a measurement. I am sure you can think of countless examples where inclusion requires some form of investment and yet we would agree that it needs to be ensured.

On the topic of diversity information:
How many people in your company have Irish background? And where is that tracked?
While some ginger-jokes persist, we have outgrown a particular resentment that was historically quite strong a while ago. But I think it is fair to say that the Irish do not suffer from any discrimination anymore. How was this achieved? Did we track segregation/diversity? Did we create laws?
The civil rights movement transformed the majority believe almost half a century ago. Since then, we are trying to get over a problem that we should have overcome decades ago. And I look at numbers, I look at the news, I talk to people and can not come to any other conclusion than that we still have a problem with racism in this society, even though the vast majority agrees that we shouldn't. Yes, there are socio-psychological mechanisms that "auto-segregate" among many other mechanisms and effects. But we simply have to start by acknowledging:

Collecting diversity information did not work. Establishing quotas did not work. It's not that we are missing the data and have to rely on models. We have tried it, and it failed. It does not help to run the compiler again :-)

mitchpommers profile image
Mitch Pomery (he/him)

If it's free is the simplest test for something. If it's free for you to address someone with the pronouns they prefer, why wouldn't you? If it's free to address a group as "team" instead of "guys" and makes someone feel more included, why wouldn't you?

How many people in your company have Irish background?

And where is that tracked?
Nowhere. I'm unemployed.

Jokes aside, there are two very distinct things that need to happen for diversity information that is collected to be useful. First, it needs to be collected. Second, people actually need to look at it and make meaningful changes to try and change it. Just because some organizations collect this information and don't use it, doesn't mean that it isn't useful at other orgs and hasn't been used to make change. I know I've used information like that to drive change in initiative's I've worked on.

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

If it's free for you to address someone with the pronouns they prefer, why wouldn't you?

This is not the discussion we are having here. Of course I would. I am saying that I disagree with anything being free being a good test. And that goes both ways. Should an employer guarantee that there is an opportunity for breastfeeding mothers? Yes. But what if that means that he has to invest to ensure privacy? Still yes. How about singing the national anthem each morning? No, thank you. But it's free! Still decline.

As for the "guys":
I ignored that the first time as I get your point, but think the example is weak. This particular term went from being very declarative to a more or less genderless use within my lifetime. That might be something regional, but here all types of groups regardless of consistency are referred to as guys without anybody taking an issue with it. On a general basis I agree, though: use the language everyone feels comfortable with if possible.

As for the data collection:
I have very strong doubts regarding that. In my mind, labels always produce exclusion. As long as the same news outlets show concerned faces when a cop apparently targeted a minority member for racist reasons and then switch over to polls to dissect the "black vote" we will not get anywhere. This is probably why I question the pronouns as a solution. I think less labels rather than more labels are more likely to generate equal opportunity.

This would be a way bigger discussion, but all diversity efforts we take were ment to bridge a time of transformation. Unfortunately, these predictions have not been met. So even if you managed to take some steps to broaden diversity in whatever organization you operated in, you must admit that by now that should been a fact and merely a question of mathematical and cultural distribution, not something that needs to be steered, enforced, manipulated.