US Air Force C17 Globemaster III cargo plane

Perhaps you’ve noticed on social media that some profiles include a reference to “they/them.” Maybe you’ve been in line checking out at the local grocery when you notice your cashier has the same pronouns on a name tag. This is part of a trend in diversity. Many workplaces around the United States are placing what are called pronoun signatures on name tags, in email signatures, and in Zoom profiles.

The inclusion of these pronouns on tags and in email signatures as well as in other workplace situations is a march toward diversity where businesses are working to show acceptance for both transgender and non-binary individuals. The Wall Street Journal reports that this addition of pronoun signatures is at the urging of company heads promoting inclusion in the workplace.

On December 9, the United States Air Force followed suit by releasing a statement regarding the use of pronoun signatures on communications from individuals within the agency.

This authorization is to be used for communications within the Air Force. According to the press release, “this guidance provides approval for the use of pronouns in electronic signature blocks and expands on written communication by providing official templates posted on (an) e-publishing website available for download.”

The memo stated that while users are encouraged to utilize the pronoun signature in correspondence, it is not required.

This is merely the latest initiative adopted by the Air Force and all military branches in an effort to promote inclusion. Earlier in 2021, the State Department was criticized for its celebration of International Pronouns Day due to challenges the initiative faces worldwide.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this new method of using pronouns causes both uncertainty as well as confusion in the workplace and in other social situations.

A store manager for the Columbia brand recounts his experience with adding pronouns to his name badge at work. While he proudly sports the “he/him/his” on his personal name badge, he admits confusion at how to promote this type of diversity at work. He says that the company’s HR department published guidance reading material which said that, even though the man identifies as a male – and appears to be male – placing the proper pronouns which he’d like to be addressed by helps those with whom he works to feel more comfortable placing their pronouns on a name badge. The reading material stated that doing so would create a “more supportive atmosphere,” particularly if an employee’s gender identity does not match that person’s appearance.

The Columbia sports wear manager concluded by saying, “if we make everyone feel more included, like they belong, that’s where we’re going to see a new shift in actual diversity.”

Like the Columbia HR office, the US Air Force is not requiring any employee to use the pronoun signature block on emails or other internal communication. In February 2021, the Air Force established an “Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” meant to promote a “diverse and highly inclusive environment.”