VMLY&R has created The Proud Pronoun Project, a website where individuals have the option to select their personal gender pronouns and produce a beautiful illustration to display as Teams or Zoom backgrounds for meetings as a way to inform the people they work every day how they should be identified.
The site provides options for all cis, transgender, and non-binary individuals to select their pronouns ranging from he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs or zi/zir/zirs - or any combination of the 24 options on the site. An individual’s choice goes to the very core of their own identity.
According to the 2015 National Transgender Statistic Survey, 35% of employed adults reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing mistreatment at work because of their gender. Currently, more employees than ever understand that gender can be expansive and experts also agree that correct pronoun usage can empower teams and ultimately is a strong business driver. Around one in five adults knows someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, according to a 2019 Pew Research report. Millennials – who will represent three quarters of the workforce in 2025 – are more likely to identify as LGBTQ (20%) than previous generations Generation X (12%) and Baby Boomers (7%), according to a 2017 Harris Poll conducted for GLAAD. Gen-Z is even more likely to say they know someone who prefers gender-neutral pronouns (35%) than Millennials (25%), according to the Pew Research study. - Due to how easy it can be to misinterpret pronouns, that figure is likely a lot higher.
From a business point of view, the risks of not getting your employee experience right will diminish the ability to attract and retain top talent. A 2020 Harvard Business Review article pointed out often “companies that are LGBTQ+-friendly usually focus more on the ‘LGB’ than on the ‘TQ+’.” Organisations will do themselves a huge disservice by ignoring these shifting gender norms.
The campaign was brainstormed and produced by VMLY&R’s LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG). The ERG is a global employee-led group with the shared goal of creating a place of belonging and safe space for all employees to express themselves across the world. Every ERG at VMLY&R is fully funded, backed by executive support, and empowered to activate programming that drives culture and awareness.
For this campaign, VMLY&R’s LGBTQ ERG teamed up with illustrators, Lauren Phillips (she/her) and Frank Norton (he/him) to produce the artwork. They are encouraging individuals to display their preferred pronouns across social platforms, zoom backgrounds etc.
Executive Global Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Suba Nadarajah (she/her) at VMLY&R, said, “Our usage of gender pronouns at VMLY&R wasn't just informed in a vacuum. It was created through the process of open conversation from people of the LGBTQ+ community along with allies, and the conversation is still being had. It will never stop. Because the act of becoming more empathetic and inclusive is always evolving. We, as a company, will always continue to listen, learn, unlearn and grow along with it.”
Commenting on the project, Tripti Lochan (she/her), Co-CEO, VMLY&R Asia, said, “Our agency prides itself on enabling employees to bring their whole selves to work. Gender fluidly isn’t simply about building new policies, creating new internal systems, or pronouns in email signatures. It’s about understanding how gender norms affect everybody and reimagining how gender takes shape across the entire company, customer experience and brands.
“The Proud Pronoun Project represents a step towards normalising acceptance of all identities in and out of the workplace, which is something we hope will continue far beyond Pride month.”
Earlier this year, VMLY&R received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, the United States’ foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.