Words Matter

words matter

By LaShonda Garnes, Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity


At Fidelity Bank, we believe powerful ideas can come from any one of our diverse team members, whether they are in the executive suite, on the front lines serving our customers or in any of the various departments that contribute to our success. That’s why we established a channel through which employees can share their big ideas. We call it the Imagine Initiative, and a recent submission resulted in our effort to provide team members the option to include pronouns in their official Fidelity email signatures.

This may seem like a small thing, but our Inclusion, Equity and Diversity team realized that it was an important step for our fourth generation, family-owned bank to take. Empowering our people to share their pronouns enables us to learn about each other and from each other—to find common ground in our language and address each other with dignity.

It’s not just about words. It’s about respect and advancing our journey toward a more inclusive workplace. This Imagination Initiative suggestion prompted us to really explore how language contributes to inclusivity. We had questions, and you may, as well.

How can we be more inclusive using pronouns?

We learned that there are several ways we can all be more inclusive in the way we use pronouns in the workplace:

  • Add pronouns to your email signatures and business cards. Adding your pronouns to your signature line is a simple way to help normalize the importance of using correct pronouns and fostering an inclusive environment. It also serves as a learning opportunity and creates a safe space for others to talk about their pronouns.
  • When it comes to pronouns, don’t assume. If you are not certain of someone’s pronoun, don’t assume. You can start by introducing yourself, including your pronouns to create a safe space for others to share. You can ask individuals how they would like to be addressed, or you can use their name until you learn how they identify themselves.
  • Normalize ‘they’ and other gender-neutral pronouns. If you have not had the chance to ask someone about their pronouns or are not comfortable doing so, use they/them/theirs as your default pronouns.
  • Be mindful of pronoun use in written communication. Not only should we be mindful of using the appropriate pronouns when we are speaking with colleagues, but we should also be mindful of our use of pronouns when sending emails, letters, etc.
  • Learn and practice new pronouns. If you are not comfortable using pronouns, practice.

What about using other gendered language?

Whether we realize it, our language is full of gendered terms that if used in the wrong situation could make people feel excluded and disrespected. Here’s list of just a few common gendered terms and what you can use instead:

  • Instead of “you guys,” try “you all,” “y’all,” “folks,” “friends,” “everyone,” “people”
  • Avoid using “dude,” “man,” and “bro”
  • Instead of “ladies and gentlemen,” try “everyone,” “folks,” or nothing at all
  • Instead of “men and women,” try “people,” “employees,” or “workers”
  • Instead of “sir” and “ma’am,” try nothing at all
  • Instead of “man hours,” “man the door,” “manpower,” etc., try “work,” “staff,” or “people/person,” as in “work hours,” “people hours,” “staff the door,” etc.
  • Instead of “mankind,” try “humankind”

Giving grace

We fully understand that this type of change is difficult. We’ve developed our speech patterns and vocabulary over many years of communicating. We know that we will make mistakes along the way. That’s why we are equally committed to providing each other grace, seeing slip-ups and miscommunication as opportunities to learn and grow. We’ll get better together as a Fidelity team. And we invite all our fellow community members to join us.