Doing The Work: Stop Making Assumptions

    Published on October 17th, 2019

    In case you missed it, International Pronouns Day was this week. Founded by social justice leader Shige Sakurai (they/them), International Pronouns Day, seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.”

    At Peer Health Exchange each day is an opportunity to do the work required to show up for young people. To be sure, we have made many missteps—individually—and as an organization—along this journey. And for this, we’re grateful to the young people we serve for keeping us accountable to move towards this necessary cultural shift.

    If we are to realize our vision to advance health equity and improve health outcomes for young people, we have to start with us.

    My hope is that by advancing our individual learning, understanding why this is an important societal shift, and being more mindful of our pronoun assumptions—with our colleagues and everyone— we will build a more inclusive workplace.

    For us, institutionalizing the use of pronouns within our organization started in 2016. That summer, our now-Sr. Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Xaelah Jarrett led us all in a series of health equity training and conversations. As a follow-up, she asked our New York City team to add “pronouns in use” to their email signatures–inspired by a local partnership with the Anti-Violence Project.

    Then, thanks to our New York City team leading by example, our now-Chief Operating Officer Robin Rich led an org-wide effort to update all staff email signatures across our five sites. 

    Since then, we’ve continued learning in this area. As an org, our many grows and glows include: 

    •   Adding pronouns to our business cards and providing pronouns stickers at our public events
    • Leading sessions with our National Board on the use and importance of pronouns
    • Taking time, thought and care to update our new hire applications to include inclusive gender language
    • Working to create a cultural norm where we introduce ourselves with our names and pronouns and modeling that same behavior when introducing guest speakers

    Remember, change is hard and re-training our minds is difficult. If you mess up, acknowledge it and apologize, commit to doing better, then DO BETTER.

    If you need some help, here are some resources I recently shared with our staff:


    1.       Commit to reading 2 of the shared resources above

    2.      Select at least 1 item from the ‘100 Ways’ article above and commit to it

    Osayuware (Tina) Enagbare is Vice President, Talent & Equity at Peer Health Exchange.  Her passion for community empowerment and youth development fuels her mission to advance equity & engage and develop the talent within the organizations that serve them. 

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