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21 February 2022

"A small part of making a big difference": adding pronouns to staff profiles

Staff at the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care can now add pronouns to their online profiles.

Person in red trousers sitting on sofa using laptop

Staff at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care can now add pronouns to their online profiles, thanks to a project led and championed by Dr Debbie Braybrook.

When Debbie received an email to update her staff profile for the King’s website last year, she noticed there wasn’t a dedicated space to specify her pronouns. Eager to include them anyway, she decided to add them as a suffix.

Dr Debbie Braybrook
Dr Debbie Braybrook

"I didn’t know at that point if they would be included, or how that gesture would be received by my Faculty. But I gave it a go anyway." - Dr Debbie Braybrook

After adding her pronouns to her own profile, Debbie reflected that there were likely other colleagues and students who would like to do the same. Being a member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee within the Cicely Saunders Institute for Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, she decided to ask the committee whether they thought the option of adding pronouns was something they should try pursuing.

Unsurprisingly, the EDI committee was fully supportive. Debbie raised the idea with the Faculty Communications Manager, Zoe Dunlop, and together they drove the work forward.

We all have pronouns. Respecting them is vital for everyone, but can be particularly impactful for trans, non-binary and queer people. Some people may see using the correct pronouns as small gesture. It is small in that it doesn’t require much effort, but it’s hugely important. Misgendering can be harmful, it goes against our KCL Trans Matters commitments, and may also be in conflict with equality law. When people refer to us correctly, these are the building blocks of interpersonal relationships – they’re letting us know that they respect us for who we are. Using the correct pronouns are a small part of making a big difference to colleagues’ and students’ sense of belonging – both in terms of how we feel at university, as we go on with our everyday lives, but also after that. It creates an inclusive climate and also means we don’t need to waste energy, emotions and time thinking about how we’ve been perceived or whether to correct someone.

Dr Debbie Braybrook

Debbie’s research interests lie in equity in health, but she also wants to contribute towards inclusivity in higher education and more broadly. She joined the Institute EDI Committee shortly after joining King’s, where she works on the ACCESSCare stream of research, focusing on improving care for people from the LGBTQ+ community facing serious illness and those close to them. The NIHR-funded research she worked on involved speaking to people from the LGBTQ+ community about best ways for health and social care professionals to communicate in an inclusive way and she was educated on the deep impact that pronouns can have. Working alongside the committee and her research colleagues, Debbie says she felt empowered to push for change.

Debbie says she’d like to see the university and Faculty to take further strides towards inclusivity for trans, non-binary and queer people. Rolling out pronouns on staff profiles across the university, on Microsoft Teams profiles and in email signatures are all steps towards creating a more inclusive environment for everyone.

While it’s important to recognise the work that remains to be done beyond pronouns, Debbie is excited to see what the King’s community can achieve together:

Following insightful discussions with colleagues in the Proudly King’s team, EDI Consultants in Human Resources, university-wide Comms team members and our Institute’s Trans Champion, Hannah Scott, I think there’s a clear need for wider progress, beyond pronouns. Trans-inclusive processes need to be better integrated into wider university systems, policies and practices, and so a lot more accessible to all King’s staff and students. For that to happen, this work needs to be supported by resource at university level.

Dr Debbie Braybrook

The Faculty’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan has set out to create an environment where the diversity of gender identity is understood and respected, and staff and students know where to seek guidance and support. This includes normalising the use of pronouns, by sharing them in email signatures and in meetings.

“Other universities have paved the way in ensuring that all students and staff can indicate their pronouns, along with preferred name and title upon becoming part of the university community. I think these steps provide inspiration that can help us gain momentum, and I’m excited to see what we can achieve at King’s!” – Dr Debbie Braybrook

What can you do next? Top tips for gender inclusion

  • Adapt the use of gender neutral language as far as possible – whether that’s in teaching, meetings, or documentation and policies.
  • Never assume somebody’s gender identity. If you are not sure how someone identifies, politely ask how they would like to be addressed/referred to.
  • Remember that everyone is an individual; there is no ‘one size fits all’.
  • Explore the Trans Matters Toolkit to learn more about the available guidance and support at King’s.
  • Members of King’s can find out more about the Faculty EDI Action Plan on the university intranet

In this story

Debbie Braybrook

Research Associate