Staff Reporters
Jun 11, 2021

Turn your pronouns into your Zoom background

An initiative from VMLY&R aims to normalise the acceptance of all identities in the workplace. It's loud and unlikely to get much external uptake, but it starts a conversation.

An initiative developed by VMLY&R's global LGBTQ employee resource group aims to encourage greater acceptance of all identities in and out of the workplace, with loud Teams or Zoom backgrounds brandished with a person's preferred pronouns.

Anyone can visit the website, the Proud Pronoun Project, select their personal gender pronouns, and download a colourful illustration to display as Teams or Zoom backgrounds. It's a (very loud, but it is Pride after all) way to inform those you work with, or those you have meetings with, how you should be identified. 

The site provides options for all cis, transgender and non-binary individuals to select their pronouns ranging from he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs or zi/zir/zirs—or any combination of the 24 options on the site.

The employee resource group who conceptualised the campaign teamed up with illustrators Lauren Phillips (she/her) and Frank Norton (he/him) to produce the artwork. 

Suba Nadarajah (she/her), VMLY&R's executive global director of diversity, equity & inclusion, said the usage of gender pronouns "wasn't just informed in a vacuum".

"It was created through the process of open conversation from people of the LGBTQ+ community along with allies, and the conversation is still being had. It will never stop, because the act of becoming more empathetic and inclusive is always evolving. We, as a company, will always continue to listen, learn, unlearn and grow along with it," she said.

According to a 2019 Pew Research report, around one in five adults know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. Gen-Z is more likely to say they know someone who prefers gender-neutral pronouns (35%) than Millennials (25%), according to the study.

Despite this growing trend, companies that invest in becoming LGBTQIA+ friendly tend to focus more on the 'LGB' than on the 'TQ+', according a 2020 Harvard Business Review article. As a consequence, transgender individuals continue to report facing discrimination or mistreatment at work due to their identity.

Tripti Lochan (she/her), the co-CEO of VMLY&R Asia, said the Proud Pronoun Project "represents a step towards normalising acceptance of all identities in and out of the workplace".

"This is something we hope will continue far beyond Pride month," she said.

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