Take a moment to picture me, Chloe back in the mid-2010s. I am a white, able-bodied, fresh-faced 23 year old female who despite being from Northern Ireland, looks exactly like every other white young female American that I am surrounded by in the room I’m walking into. I am arriving into my first town hall meeting in my new job in the United States of America. The room is filled with about 200 people, of all ages, gender identities, races, ethnicities, religions, abilities.

Then comes the moment. All new joiners were introduced by a senior member of their team, I stood up with my boss, and was introduced as *drum roll please* “Chloe Mc-something” quickly followed by “well I can’t pronounce your last name, so Chloe Mc-something will do” (cue laughter from said person, cue embarrassment from me).

My last name wasn’t massively difficult to pronounce, but at that moment I had an overwhelming feeling of shame that I had made this person feel awkward that they couldn’t pronounce my name, like it was somehow my fault. But now, looking back on that moment, and now being a part of the Starts with a Name movement, I realise that my name is my name, it’s part of my identity, and it’s not up to me to apologise for how it’s pronounced.

But why does it matter whether we mispronounce someone’s name? After all, most mispronunciations are usually innocent mistakes.

Whilst that may be true, organisational psychologist and leadership expert, Joyce E. A. Russell, stated that:

A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person… It is a sign of courtesy… When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important.

In short, it helps create a sense of belonging.

That’s the premise of Version 1’s SWAN #StartsWithAName movement. In 2019, the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIBs) team at Version 1 asked employees to do something simple: put the phonetic pronunciation of their name on their e-mail signature. In 2020, Version 1 customers and partners were very interested to see that we had our names pronounced in our signatures, and then we realised that it was time to help SWAN take flight!

You might be thinking, where’s the catch or what’s the cost? Well, unlike most things in the world now-a-days, this is completely free to sign up to! Why? Because we have seen the impact of this simple gesture has on creating a sense of belonging and connection between people.

Creating an inclusive workplace starts with getting to know the people you work and interact with, and that usually begins with getting to know their name. When people think of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging work, they often associate it with big gestures towards changing the world; and yes, those initiatives that evoke systemic change are necessary, in reality, DIB work can be delivered through daily, small and intentional acts. We believe that the journey towards inclusion and belonging can easily begin with our names.

If you want to get involved, we simply ask you to do 3 things:

  1. Identify a SWAN Ambassador or Ambassadors – find your own internal ambassador(s) to help SWAN take flight and to make sure co-workers are “walking the walk”
  2. Next, we welcome you to sign the charter to help SWAN take flight globally. Be among the organisations and individuals making a stand to ensure your colleagues’ names are properly pronounced and increase their sense of belonging.
  3. Post your #SWAN certificate on social media using the #StartsWithAName hashtag to spread the word and raise awareness of the importance of a name.

It’s that simple. Belonging can and should Start With A Name.

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Version 1

At Version 1, we’re proud that our differences make us unique; we embrace and encourage them. We hire for your potential, give you world-class training and trust you to make an impact – and we know that having teams that are filled with different people, is the recipe to our success. Our inclusive environment means always challenging ourselves and others to do better for each other and our customers, committing to excellence and not making excuses – which results in a workplace where everyone feels included, heard, and can truly be themselves.

Read our Tech Insights on Medium.com

Our Medium publication is a great place to find out what our employees have experienced during their time at Version 1, and what they’ve worked on. With blog posts from different practices across the business, get a taste of what you could be involved with at Version 1!