Using gender pronouns in email signatures

Gender pronouns are becoming an essential part of every professional email communication and companies now tend to include gender information in their email signature policy. In this article we’ll highlight the importance of gender pronouns and show you how to use them in email signatures in your organization.

Gender pronouns in email signatures - featured image

The importance of gender pronouns

Pronouns in email signatures show how the email senders identify themselves and how they would like to be referred to in the third person. Using them in email signatures can send a message that the company is inclusive of everyone and acknowledges gender diversity. On the other hand, some people might not be comfortable adding those pronouns to their signature. Take this into account and be sensitive when making the decision to include gender pronouns in email communication. And remember, pronouns alone shouldn’t be treated as the company’s only effort to be more inclusive of gender identity.

Adding gender pronouns to email signatures can make things easier and save time. Some people spend a lot of time wondering how to address the person they are writing to. Wrongly assuming someone’s gender can have a horrible impact on the first impression and might even hurt someone’s feelings. To remedy this problem, some people try to avoid using pronouns at all costs. The result – rephrasing an email – might take even more time and, in some cases, can end with the message sounding simply awkward.

Examples of gender pronouns in signatures

How you add pronouns to your email signature template depends highly on your signature design. Pronouns should form an integral part of the signature. If you decide to include gender pronouns in your email signature, it’s best to add them next to your name. That’s where most people expect to see this information.

See the examples below to learn how to best include gender pronouns in email signatures:

Sample signature 1

Gender pronouns in email signatures - example 1

Sample signature 2

Gender pronouns in email signatures - example 2

Sample signature 3

Gender pronouns in email signatures - example 3

How to set up

Now that I’ve explained the basic concept, I’ll show you how to set up signatures with gender pronouns for the whole company.

I’ll give you two examples. In both of them, a company called Company is using Microsoft 365 for their email needs and manages email signatures using CodeTwo Email Signatures for Office 365. This program lets you update email signatures in your entire company in a matter of seconds, regardless of email clients and devices used to communicate.

Before you start, you need to gather information from employees about which pronouns they want to have included in their signatures. In this example, I’ve sent a survey to all employees with the following options to choose from:

  • (he/him/his)
  • (she/her/hers)
  • (they/them/theirs)
  • I’d rather not have any pronouns included

I’ve gathered all the replies in a CSV file with two columns: User (represented by the user’s UPN) and Pronouns with possible values: (he/him/his), (she/her/hers), (they/them/their), blank.

The following two methods require admin access to the Microsoft 365 tenant.

Using Groups and Conditional Placeholders

In this method, I will create 3 distribution groups in Microsoft 365, add members based on the CSV file and configure an email signature rule to add pronouns to user’s email signatures.

First, I connect to my Microsoft 365 tenant using the Exchange Online PowerShell module (see instructions on how to do this). Then, I import the survey’s results from the CSV file (in this example, my CSV file is located in C:/pronouns.csv)

$pronouns = (import-csv C:\pronouns.csv)

After the results have been imported, I create 3 distribution groups:

New-DistributionGroup -Name "Pronoun-He" -Members ($pronouns | where -property pronouns -like "*him*").user;
New-DistributionGroup -Name "Pronoun-She" -Members ($pronouns | where -property pronouns -like "*her*").user;
New-DistributionGroup -Name "Pronoun-They" -Members ($pronouns | where -property pronouns -like "*they*").user;

Now, I open the CodeTwo Email Signatures for Office 365’s Manage Signatures App and select a signature rule I want to use. Then, I go to the Design tab and click Edit signature to open the Signature template editor.

Gender pronouns - Access Signature template editor

When the editor opens, I need to add a new conditional placeholder. To do so, I go to Placeholder > Conditional Placeholders > Manage.

Gender pronouns - Manage conditional placeholders

In the Conditional placeholders manager, I add a new conditional placeholder, name it pronouns and add placeholder rules, as shown below. I leave the default placeholder value empty. With the current setup, if a user is a member of one of the groups – they will have their gender pronouns added to their signature. If someone is not a member of any of those groups, they will receive a default (blank) placeholder. After I finish setting up placeholders, I click Save to close the manager.

Gender pronouns - add pronouns placeholder

Finally, in the editor’s main window I put the cursor where I want the new placeholder to be and add it by clicking Placeholder > Conditional placeholders > pronouns.

Gender pronouns - add pronouns placeholder 2

Now I can save the template, close the editor and apply changes to the signature-adding service.

Learn more about using Conditional placeholders

Using Custom Attributes

In this example, I will add custom attributes to user’s mailboxes and use them in an email signature rule afterwards.

As a reminder, I have a CSV file with all my users and the pronouns they wish to have in their email signatures.

Like in the previous method, first I need to start a remote connection with Exchange Online (see instructions on how to do this). Next, I’m importing values from my CSV file and upload them to my users’ custom attributes. In the example, I have my CSV file in C:\pronouns.csv and I’m using CustomAttribute7:

$pronouns = (import-csv C:\pronouns.csv);
foreach ($user in $pronouns) {Set-Mailbox $user.user -CustomAttribute7 $user.pronouns}

Now, I open the Manage Signatures App and edit the email signature rule to which I want to add pronouns. To do so, I go to the Design tab and click Edit signature.

Gender pronouns - Access Signature template editor

In the signature template editor, I put the cursor where I want the new placeholder to be located in my signature. Then, I use the placeholder menu to add the custom attribute I’ve just modified in PowerShell (in this example it’s CustomAttribute7) as shown in the image below.

Gender pronouns - add a custom attribute

After I’m done, I need to save changes, close the Signature template editor and Apply the changes to CodeTwo Azure Service.

Learn more about using custom attributes

The result

Regardless of which method you choose, all of your users should have their pronouns automatically added to their email signatures. Like this:

Gender pronouns - email signature preview

Thanks to CodeTwo Email Signatures for Office 365, every user in your organization can have a personalized email signature containing their preferred gender pronouns. The signatures are managed centrally without user involvement, making sure that no employee is excluded and that the signatures will work on every device and in every email client.

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