Scottish Gov't Wants Staffers to Sign Off Emails With Preferred Pronouns but Many Loath the Move
Employees at the Scottish Government who do not identify themselves as males or females will be encouraged to use non-binary pronouns such as they/them in their work emails.
The Scottish Government is willing to see thousands of its employees taking a “pronoun pledge” under which they would be asked to add pronouns to their email sign-offs as a part of an “advancing LGBTI equality” agenda, the Telegraph reports. However, the move has reportedly caused an outcry from staffers as hundreds of them oppose the idea.
According to the proposed plans, backed by the Scottish Government, some 8,000 civil servants would be pressured to reference their gender identity with she/her, he/him, they/them or even zie and zir at the bottom of every work email.
But an internal survey showed that this plan to “normalise the inclusion” lacks overwhelming support. According to responses from over 3,000 employees, 58% said that they didn’t use pronouns on their email signatures and were not really willing to start doing so. 17%, however, said that they had already been following the pronouns routine.
‘Stupid’ Idea or ‘Helpful’ Move?
But as some staffers also expressed concerns for the proposal alongside the survey, Leslie Evans, a permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, dismissed their comments as “disappointing” during a Q&A session with the staff, according to readout of the meeting released on Monday. Evans pressures the servants to accept that “what we write around our name” could be “good and helpful” as she called on for a complete overhaul of inclusivity policies.
However, some women's rights campaigners called the idea not only “stupid” but also “authoritarian” and discriminatory.
According to Trina Budge, director of the For Women Scotland campaign group, the Scottish Government was displaying “controlling, illiberal and authoritarian tendencies” with the push.
“A recent poll showed the majority of civil servants were against this move and it is sad, but not surprising, to see Ms. Evans disregard this,” Budge told the Telegraph.
“In forging ahead with this or any associated coerced signing of a pledge, the Scottish Government would, potentially, be discriminating against a protected belief and also inviting sex discrimination,” the campaigner added.
She accused the government of ditching “any views which conflict with their predetermined policies”.
According to Joe Griffin, a director general in the Scottish Government, some staffers were left “in tears” following comments from other colleagues after the survey had revealed an internal divide on the issue. He asked both sides for “empathy”, saying that “nobody in a workplace environment should have the fundamental aspect of their identity challenged”.
A Scottish government spokeswoman told the Telegraph that the usage of pronouns in introductions and email signatures is “an individual choice”.
“As an employer we are committed to a progressive approach to advancing LGBTI equality. We encourage any action that makes people feel included and respected in our organisation,” she said.
It’s not clear when the proposed policy will be introduced and whether all the employees will be forced to sign the “pronoun pledge”. But the government is reportedly planning to run a follow-up survey in September “to measure the impact of the initiative”. The government generally believes that the use of pronouns even by cisgender individuals creates a feeling of inclusion for trans and non-binary people at the work place.