Who Lists Pronouns

I have found myself in an unexpected and somewhat weird position of working as a translator for 3 large companies. One is medical, one is tech, and one a religiously affiliated multinational charitable concern.

And let me tell you, my friends. As part of this work, I’ve been in correspondence with many people. In the medical company, in particular, every translation goes through many rounds of review. This puts me in touch with many employees in different positions. I have noticed that the frequency of people listing their pronouns in the email signature in all 3 companies is an order of magnitude higher than in academia.

In academia, secretaries and members of low-level administrative staff list pronouns. Maybe a few early-career academics with no publications. Serious people list their recent books and corresponding links but very VERY rarely pronouns. Yesterday, for instance, I had to get in touch with 5 academics I don’t personally know for a colleague’s tenure review. Zero pronouns. On the same day, I coresponded with 4 people in the corporate world. All had pronouns.

The main source of wokeness is no longer academia. It’s still a major source of it but there’s now a much more powerful and wealthy one. That is the world of transnational business.

6 thoughts on “Who Lists Pronouns

  1. I work in a traditionally conservative sector (full of both privately-held and publicly traded corporations). The larger the company (and the more valuable the shares are), the more likely people are to list pronouns in their email signatures or professional profiles.

    During the pandemic, my team at a large, publicly traded, multi-national organization was dismantled, under the guise of pandemic-related reorganization . At the time, HR professionals and some of the more “showy” executives were putting their pronouns out there. I’d also add that this company was delisted from the stock-market after a series of poor financial decisions and failure to execute projects on time and for the agreed price, in a way that may have bordered on fraud.

    I moved to a company that focused on union services (large, but privately held and off most people’s radars), and only saw pronouns from our mega-corporation clients (and even then, only the US or European-owned…in our sector, companies from pro-US companies in East Asia and Latin America control some notable American-based assets).

    I moved from that company to a small, sequestered company within a publicly traded company. The contrast between the two is stark. ParentCo makes a big deal about mental health awareness, diversity, etc. ParentCo also has a notoriously BAD safety record, horrendous finances, and a freshly cleaned-out C-suite and BOD (oh, and there’s been a huge “pandemic-related reduction in benefits to employees). Pronouns abound. The small organization (to which I belong), is booming, taking on new clients, increasing revenue, and well-reputed in the field. No pronouns, diversity initiatives, etc.

    It’s been weird to see the pronoun phenomenon talked about as if it’s confined to academia only. In my view, this is a bizarre, HR driven phenomenon. I think Jonathan Haidt was right when he pointed out that a lot of the kids that freaked out on campus last decade ended up joining the PMC as HR or administrative professionals at large companies. So many crappy companies need SOME way to make themselves look good. Pair sensitive, but loud people with a CEO under fire, and it’s a marriage made in heaven!

    I regularly read a website called Ask A Manager. I think the author provides a lot of valuable information, especially for people in the midst of a job search or who are new to the workforce. But man, you should see some of the diversity handwringing/self-flagellation that abounds on that site…Yikes!

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  2. “The main source of wokeness is no longer academia.”

    This has been true for a long time, at least in most of academia. Here in STEM, when people go woke it isn’t because they read something by a humanities prof. It’s because of things in the media, the wider culture. Maybe some of those social justice terms used in the wider culture ultimately originated in some academic article however many decades ago, but their influence and power came from uptake and amplification in the wider world.

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  3. “when people go woke it isn’t because they read something by a humanities prof. It’s because of things in the media, the wider culture.”

    My theory is that there’s an academia –> social media –> HR pipeline at work.

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  4. Mayo Clinic has gone woke. I’m scheduled for cataract surgery next week, and one of the forms I had to fill out required me to list both the gender I was assigned at birth and the gender with which I currently identify. Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

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