“Hi, I’m Mimi Wallace and my pronouns are she/her/hers.” I do my best to consistently introduce myself this way anytime I meet someone. However, it’s not that easy during virtual calls. Many times, there are no introductions necessary or it’s a call with more of a panel format – with only enough time to throw out a question at the very end.
Still, I thought it was important to include my pronouns beyond just when I could get them into an introduction. So, I listed them in my name on Webex – an easy, inclusive way of sharing them without saying them.
The number one question I received after doing this was, “Why do you do it at all? You obviously look like a woman.” My answer always begins with, “Thanks for asking” – it’s important for me that everyone be seen and heard, and there’s nothing wrong with genuine questions or wanting to learn. Gender and gender expression can be complicated, but the truth is – you don’t need a complete understanding of gender to be respectful of someone’s wishes and to address them the way they want to be addressed.
That’s the long answer. The short answer is because of my children.
As a parent, I have tried to embody and teach the idea that it’s vital to take responsibility of the way you effect the world, not just your school, neighborhood, or town but in how you treat and respect others. So, I mention my pronouns, even though it might seem obvious, because I want people to feel comfortable with me. Whether that is asking questions so I can better help educate, or – more importantly – so my transgender and non-binary community members feel comfortable, safe, and loved.
And I want my children to understand the importance of inclusion.
As my children are a little older now, they see me working remotely and on frequent virtual calls. Recently, my oldest casually asked, “How do you know anyone else’s pronouns?” I had NEVER thought of that. As a cisgender person, it can be easy to forget about the challenges that non-cisgender individuals endure every day. I sat wide-eyed, a bit embarrassed, then said, “Good point, time to take action.”
An hour later, I had added my pronouns across the board: Outlook profile, Outlook email signature, Sharepoint, Social media handles, and Webex tools. I was also very excited to find out that Workday (our new HR tool) has already added pronouns as part of our profiles. THIS is why I love working at Cisco – we are truly empowering an inclusive future for all, in big ways and small ways, and they are all important!
It’s my intent that by listing, sharing and shouting my pronouns, it opens a respectful, safe space for everyone to comfortably share their own pronouns. I hope to help eliminate misgendering, which I can only imagine to be deeply painful and frustrating and be an example of how to be a more inclusive employee and co-worker. I am thankful and proud that Cisco encourages us to lead by example.
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