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Today, social norms shift quickly. 

One of the reasons why some of the shifts seem to take place quickly is because the internet. Everyday, more and more people are becoming interconnected through the internet.

This allows more conversation about cultural changes.

Because of this, you may need to stay on top of your client’s profile/demographic information.

What’s happening?

A change impacting your business is the progress of gender choice as part of personal identify.  No longer can you assume a person is either male or female. 

Business and institutions are starting to respond. For example, at University of British Columbia email signature lines are including pronoun preference. 

If I adopted gender recognition into my signature it could read something like  “C. Charron (she/her)” or should I choose neither male nor female I could use a signature of “C. Charron (they/their).”

The change is a response to the emerging desire of institutions and businesses to be inclusive of all persons.

Practically, I like it for two very simple additional reasons. 

  1. I don’t need to include my first name (which is often a hint as to what pronoun to use) if I don’t want to, and
  2. There are names that could be male or female which has always been confusing.  I can think of names like Lindsay, Taylor, Laurie, Kim…and you probably have a few names too

Does it matter to your marketing materials?

How you choose to use this change is up to you. You can use it or not. 

It’s fair to note there is a wide range of responses to this.  And while the sexual preference and identity of someone is deeply personal, it’s a subject that can push triggers.

If you need to think about this, you could ask yourself some questions:

  • What do you and your brand stand for and what do you stand against or are you quite neutral in most social issues 
  • If you include gender pronouns are you harming or hurting your reputation (or is there no impact)
  • Are personally you triggered by this topic. It’s important to know because you need to think about your personal authenticity in your business and marketing materials

Does it matter to your clients?

This is something you can figure out from your client profiles and your client research. Who is your client? If you don’t have this information, you can gather it through surveys or conversations.

Still uncertain, talk to your colleagues and your competition. Is there an industry and professional standard that will guide your decision?

How to seamlessly incorporate gender into your content

  1. Today you can use ‘they’ or ‘their’ when talking about singular or groups.  That’s easy.

If you’re worried about what your grade 2 grammar teacher would have said, you can slip in an explanation. Just add information into a footnote or sidebar.

It could be something like this:

“As part of our policy to respect all persons  we are replacing the pronouns he/she and him/her with they/their.”

  • You can change how you write.  For instance, instead of saying:  “When the client is seeking employment, he will need updated resumes.

You could write “Job seekers need updated resumes” or “Clients need updated resumes when seeking employment.”

  •  Use a name instead of a pronoun to set the use of the pronoun. Rather than say

“The client said she was upset with her in-laws…” you can write “Janet said she was upset with her in-laws.”  Using the name, lets you be specific without causing accidental offence.

If your client’s identity needs to be respected, just indicate you’re using an alias. It’s simple to do this with a disclaimer in a footnote or sidebar. It could be: “To protect the privacy of our clients, names have been changed.”

Are you caught in the past?

While you should avoid clichés, you can start by and avoiding stereotype clichés. 

The other day, I saw a Facebook ad.  It was a mid-sized regional company describing about their services.  Their employees were “jacks of all trades.”  Ok.  No offence was probably intended but there are other ways of writing.

This cliché raises gender issues, sets a tone, and it’s old-school (and not in a good way).  And, in fairness, it might have been deliberately chosen because all their employee are male, or they’re  deliberately appealing to a specific clientele.

If you’re deciding to refresh your content, and if you want to bring gender equity into your updated materials, it’s easier than you think.

Use lifestyle and psychological customer profiles

When you’re gathering data about your clients, some of the most useful information is found by discovering lifestyle choices and psychological information.

If you’re in the habit of collecting data for your client profile and client journey – it might be a good time to figure out if you need to add, reframe or remove questions.

Given the complexity of the gender pronoun discussions, you’re not able to assume.

Is this important to you?

As mentioned earlier, it may or may not be.

But if you want to build your reputation as being progressive, current and if it’s part of your branding or personal value, then get ahead of the game.

It’s easier to be in the front of the back rather than at the back.

If it matters to your clients, they’ll notice whatever choice you make.  

If it’s time to rewrite your surveys, landing pages, blogs, materials …. and if you’re feeling overwhelmed about finding the time and energy to tackle this, reach out to a freelance professional copywriter.

Talk to them about how they could help you.

Ms Charron is a certified copywriter with more than 35 years experience in a variety of industries. She’s a copywriter who is focused on remembering the human heart in advertising and enjoys working in self-improvement and personal growth.