When Janice O’Neill, the director of talent management at property firm Cushman & Wakefield, urged staff in 2018 to “add their pronouns” to their email signatures, the responses were mixed.

Some told her they felt for the first time like they belonged at the firm. Others had no idea what she was talking about.

Ms O’Neill was encouraging a relatively minor tweak: adding a line to an email signature that shares which personal pronoun a person uses – he, she, they or something else entirely – alongside other basics like their phone number.

The practice, which started in academic and non-profit circles and is becoming increasingly common on the corporate world, is intended to make the workplace more comfortable for all – including staff who are