Gender is a non-binary spectrum, which means that none of us should be relegated to just “male” or “female.” Many of us choose to identify with non-traditional pronouns, gender-neutral pronouns, multiple pronouns or no pronouns at all because gender, for many, is fluid.
In fact, The J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group discovered that 80 percent of 13-to-20-year-olds (or “Gen Zers”) believe that gender does not define a person as much as it used to. Fifty-six percent of Gen Zers say they knew someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or “ze,” as well as 43 percent of millennials who say the same.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law made the conclusion in 2016 that approximately 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. A reported 12 percent of millennials identified as something other than male or female, according to a March 2017 study. And, according to a 2015 national survey, some 33 percent of transgender individuals said that, if permitted the choice, they would prefer not to be assigned either gender designation.
Nonetheless, non-binary workers have reported feeling pressure at their jobs when it comes to their lack of gender designation — 23 percent of those polled by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law said that they purposefully hid their non-binary status at the workplace. And, of those who chose to go public, almost 20 percent believed to have lost a job because of their status and 90 percent believed to have suffered some form of job bias, discrimination or harassment.
Fortunately, more companies are starting to add gender-neutral options on their application forms, and they’re letting applicants know that they do not discriminate (even if that isn't always necessarily the case). This change comes on the heels of state reform. As of July 2017, Oregon became the first state to permit individuals to choose “X” for gender on their driver’s license instead of “M” or “F.” The District of Columbia followed suit, and as will California in 2019. Several states have also started allowing residents to designate themselves as non-binary on government-issued forms.
So how do you convey your preferred pronouns—he/him/his, she/her/hers, ze/zie/hirs, they/them/theirs, or something else entirely—on a job application?
There are a few ways to convey your gender pronouns so that your prospective employer knows how to identify you — though you should always your own discretion and do what feels the most comfortable for you.
Many companies are now giving prospective employees more options to fill out the gender field. Rather than just checking off “male” or “female,” some companies offer an “other” option. It may appear as “M,” “F” or “X” or as "other" with a description text box.
If you don’t have the option to fill out your preferred gender on the application form, you can clarify in your email or letter you write to send the application. You can simply put your preferred pronouns just below your signature, where it’s simultaneously subtle and direct. It won't detract from your application, but it'll be blantant enough for anyone reading your email to see and understand.
What are the common mistakes of a resume? Among leaving out applicable skills and experience, one of them is forgetting to provide references. You can include your references in your resume or attach their reference letters to your resume. If you are using references, ask them to refer to you by your preferred pronouns. This takes the burden off your shoulders while still letting prospective employers know how others refer to you.
If you don’t feel comfortable conveying your pronouns on the application itself, wait for the interview to do it in person. This way you can get a feel for the company culture and get a sense of your prospective employer before sharing personal details.
Is it OK to use first person in a resume? Yes, and you should talk about yourself in first person so you can share you preferred pronouns on your résumé and/or cover letter. So, if you're wondering, should I use the word I in my resume?, the answer is that you can. But still wondering what to say about yourself on a resume?
While your résumé boasts all of your work experience, your cover letter should tell your prospective employer more about that work experience and you as a person. While it’s not a place to put all of your personal information, you can indeed share your preferred pronouns. You may even want to write that you’re interested in the company for its open culture or tout a non-binary leader in the company you respect, if there is one.
While many people don’t identify with neither male nor female, if you’re someone who identifies with both male and female, you can choose both “M” and “F” if it feels fitting for you. A job application is not a legal document, and you can always explain to your prospective employer down the line if the application process progresses.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.