Students Staff
University of Essex

June 15, 2018

Fostering Inclusion at the University of Essex

Ilaria Boncori is our Deputy Dean Education (Faculty of Humanities) and Chair of the Essex LGBT Alliance.

Ilaria Boncori is Chair of the Essex LGBT Alliance. She tells us about the Pronoun Awareness Initiative, which aims to raise awareness about the use of pronouns and the gender neutral options.

One of the values at the very core of our University is inclusivity. As Chair of the Essex LGBT Alliance (ELGBTA), I am delighted that our University has a genuine commitment to engagement and promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization. At Essex, we want all our members – students and staff – as well partners and visitors, to feel welcome and be treated with equal respect and dignity at all times.

Although the pathway to equality is long and never simple, we have implemented a number of actions over the last few years in order to enhance the inclusivity of our policies and practices. Of course, our return to the Stonewall Top 100 employers earlier this year is a reflection of this commitment, but we don’t want to simply comply with legislation or follow others in the introduction of good practice – we want to lead the way with our ethos, behaviour and mind frame, whether it comes with an award or not. As a University we strive to create an environment that fosters the development of tomorrow’s leaders in equality, diversity and inclusion.

With this values-led approach in mind, the SU together with the ELGBTA, the LGBT+ Allies and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team at the University of Essex are launching a Pronoun Awareness Initiative to foster inclusion and raise awareness about the use of pronouns and the gender neutral options.

There are many things that can be done to avoid the marginalisation of transgender and gender non-conforming people through pronoun awareness. For example, have you ever used non-gendered pronouns such as Ze and They (used in a singular meaning)? Or have you asked someone what pronoun they want you to use for them instead of assuming their gender identity? Making one’s pronoun explicit in meeting introductions, avoiding gendered language in paperwork and in everyday practices, as well as paying attention to people’s pronoun badges/ lanyards/ bracelets, are all simple ways of being more inclusive. One of our recommendations is also for members of the University of Essex to have an explicit mention of one’s pronouns in signatures (e.g. pronouns: they/their/them; or he/his/him).

Karen Bush, our Head of Equality and Diversity.

Karen Bush, our Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion says ‘we are absolutely committed to promoting an environment in which people of all genders feel included and welcome. Using gender-neutral language in University policies and communications is one positive thing we have started to do and raising awareness about the need to avoid making assumptions about an individual’s gender is another step in the right direction. Thinking about how we use pronouns is a small step we can all take but a really important one. Using the wrong pronoun for someone can lead to them feeling excluded and can negatively affect their mental health and wellbeing. That is not something I want for any member of our community’.

Other activities that promote gender inclusion are our current work on the development of advice and guidance on ‘Transitioning at Work’ for individual members of staff, managers and HR staff which links to existing policy and has wellbeing at its core; the establishment of an informal mentoring scheme for LGBT+ staff and students; the creation of the LGBT+ Toolkit for inclusivity in teaching and learning practices and the publication of the edited volume LGBT+ Perspectives – The University of Essex Reader.

Interested in contributing to our Equality, diversity and Inclusion agenda? Email

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