Art by David Sandoval

Inclusion at H&P: Pronoun Visibility & Empowerment

October 20, 2021

By Brandon Bush (he/they), Copywriter and DE&I Coordinator

As we celebrate International Pronouns Day, we also reflect on the past year and a half and how it’s changed the corporate world. Discussions about racism, implementing employee resource groups and more inclusive recruitment strategies have been at the center of many recent efforts. Advertising has changed to meet the times, and Haddad & Partners has been no stranger to tackling these issues, making the workplace experience better for everyone.

Since I’m someone who identifies as genderqueer and non-binary, it was important that my workplace show support toward its employees who don’t identify with the gender binary. Though I’d always suspected traditional displays of “manliness” didn’t match who I felt I’d always been, I didn’t begin to challenge these notions until I got to Howard University. There, I found friends and spaces that allowed me to express myself in ways I didn’t feel comfortable before and helped me learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. I had trouble finding that same sense of freedom in work environments until I got to H&P. 

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) department wasn’t yet established
when I joined H&P, so there weren’t any initiatives for pronoun visibility when I started as a Project Management intern in September 2020. From the beginning, I experienced a welcoming and supportive workplace with many out and queer employees—which was something rare to me in a corporate setting. At the time, I wasn’t out as a genderqueer and non-binary person. Despite this, H&P’s “Coming Out Day” Learning to Unlearn discussion—an initiative started at H&P to hold conversations about social issues—allowed me to collaborate with other queer employees from all over the world and tell our stories.  

During this time, our now Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Nicolet Gatewood, established the DE&I department. This created a door for me to pitch and implement pronouns to be included in e-mail signatures. It was fueled by the notion that everyone should have the ability to present their full and authentic selves in the workplace. It also allows for us to normalize the use of pronouns for gender-diverse people within any given space at H&P and helps us correctly identify a person’s gender as they’d prefer.

The Movement Advancement Project found that about half of employed LGBTQ+ people remain closeted or don’t reveal their gender identity at work for fear of being discriminated against. At H&P, we try to mitigate that fear by normalizing the use of pronouns in the workplace. As part of our
commitment to diversity and inclusion, a culture of equity and celebration is highly prioritized, from executive leadership to entry-level employees.

Aaron Kwittken in Forbes said it best: “The important thing, therefore, is to create a space in which pronoun identification is optional, smartly encouraged and welcomed. Witnessing colleagues express themselves and their identities in this way can be powerful and empowering.”

Being inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community is conducive to producing a high-quality work environment and encourages more diverse talent. Most importantly, it’s key to helping us all feel safe, comfortable and welcomed.  As part of larger DE&I efforts over the past year, our Diversity,
Equity & Inclusion Committee has focused on elevating queer voices,
experiences and cultural contributions within our workplace.

For example, we routinely host events (both educational and fun, like Drag BINGO!) to celebrate Pride, National Coming Out Day and moments in queer history. In the past year LGBTQ+ representation at H&P has gone up from 11.8% to 13.6%, and we know that 2.5% of H&P’s employees identify as non-binary or gender nonconforming (which is well above the demographic representation of an estimated 0.5% of nonbinary and gender non-conforming people who currently live in the US). 

The Pew Research Center found that one in five adults personally know someone who identifies with they/them pronouns. By having employees from multiple countries throughout the world and with diverse experiences, H&P has made it a mission to be as inclusive as possible so my fellow co-workers, external clients and I know that everyone has a place here. Transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming individuals exist in every space, so it’s only right that we continue to create avenues which allow us to bring our fullest selves to work. 

On International Pronouns Day, we reflect on the past and imagine the possibilities of a future where we no longer have to normalize pronoun visibility and inclusion because it would’ve already been the norm. H&P will continue to work to bring this vision to life by pushing for an equitable work environment comfortable enough for all people to feel warm, safe and a part of a family.