HSBC has started putting pronouns on branch workers' name badges as banks across Britain race to appear more inclusive.
Branch staff can for the first time choose to add their preferred pronoun, such as she/her/hers, he/him/his or they/them/theirs, on to their name badges in a move likely to cause the bank's high street rivals to follow suit.
Stuart Haire, HSBC UK’s head of retail banking, said that "it's vitally important that everyone feels they can be themselves in the workplace. When someone is referred to with a pronoun that doesn’t align with their identity, it can make them feel alienated and have a wider and long-lasting impact on them as a person".
The move comes as taxpayer-backed NatWest continues its trial of a new 2022 branch uniform that would include a pronoun option on new badges made of bamboo. Other lenders including Virgin Money are also debating whether to add chosen pronouns on to branch staff name badges.
Gender pronouns are being debated in boardrooms across the country, with Marks & Spencer last year encouraging store staff to add pronouns on to their badges in a move which it said has "helped start some very necessary conversations". Officials at the Ministry of Defence have also been told to state their preferred pronouns in meetings.
A rising number of financial services firms are joining the debate on gender at work in an effort to appear inclusive.
Branch staff at Nationwide, the country's biggest building society, can already add pronouns to their name badges while a number of City firms encourage staff to sign off emails with their choice.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City watchdog, last year attracted criticism from feminist legal campaigners after it proposed that companies record their staff’s chosen gender rather than their legal sex.
Transgender activists have called for people to state their preferred pronoun as part of everyday communication.
The University of Wisconsin states in its guide on pronouns that being referred to with the wrong pronoun can make transgender people feel disrespected and alienated, or can trigger gender dysphoria – unease over a mismatch between one’s biological sex and gender identity.
A study by the University of Texas found in 2018 that transgender youths who felt comfortable using their chosen pronouns at school, home and work had 71pc less symptoms of severe depression compared with those who felt they could not.