Personal gender pronouns in the workplace

A colleague has said that all employees should be told to provide their personal gender pronouns (PGPs) on work emails as this will help to avoid mistakes, misunderstandings, and discrimination claims. Can you require this?

You can but you shouldn’t.

People are entitled to keep this personal information private, so forcing them to disclose their gender at work is potentially discriminatory. Expressing PGPs openly must always be a choice. If you don’t know someone’s gender, the safest option is to refer to them by name or use ‘them’ or ‘they’.

Gender identity

Gender identity is an individual’s sense of having a particular gender. It may match or differ from their assigned sex at birth. A person may also identify as gender-fluid or as having no gender.

Don’t assume a person’s gender or how they identify from their outward appearances.


PGP has previously been short for ‘preferred gender pronoun’, but this phrase is no longer used, and you should avoid it. That’s because ‘preferred’ suggests that a person’s gender is up for debate or their wishes can be ignored. Gender is a personal choice and should be respected.

A PGP is a pronoun that a person uses for themself and expresses how they wish to be referred to by others.

Binary and non-binary

A PGP can be gender-specific, which is also known as binary, or gender-neutral, which is also known as non-binary.

The most common gender-specific PGPs are he/him/his and she/her/hers. There are gender-neutral pronouns, with the most common being: them/they/theirs and ze/hir/hirs.