How can you belong in a place where people can’t say your name?
That’s the premise of Version 1’s #StartsWithAName campaign. 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 as Aoibhe (pronounced Eefa like FIFA without the F⚽!) Cantwell, our Head of Legal and Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging suggested.
But your name is so easy to pronounce! Probably, but only for people where you come from. When looking for submissions to Version 1’s name pronunciation video, a colleague who felt their name was a no-brainer was perplexed at first — very willing to help out but baffled as their name was easy to say in their mind. However, when you reassess your name with your diversity lens in hand, it can dawn on you that your name is not so simple in a country miles away.
The Important Stuff
In mid-2019, Version 1 conceived and launched a simple yet powerful inclusivity-focused concept. ‘How can you belong in a place where people can’t say your name’ is the premise of StartsWithAName. This campaign is designed to:
- Engender respect
- Recognise, promote, celebrate and embrace individuality
- Provide a simple platform for the promulgation of a wider – indeed global – adoption of the concept.
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!
- Lead by example – put your pronunciation on your e-mail signature.
- Two names – if your first name is straight-forward, but your surname isn’t, do a pronunciation for your surname.
- Cultural lens – if you think your name is easy to say, check with a colleague or friend on the other side of the world who is part of a different culture and see if they agree. We know a Katie who routinely has her name pronounced incorrectly.
- Be creative – feel free to let your imagination run wild and use emojis or tap into the power of rhyme. Phonetic pronunciation is a great option but you don’t need to learn the phonetic alphabet or be exact, e.g. Maedhbd can be “May-vuh”. An even more simple way to explain it could be “Maedhbh sounds like Dave with an M”.
- 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” by following the ‘Individual’ steps in the previous section. Through adopting SWAN, we’ve found people who have been called the wrong name by their boss for years without correcting them. In the name of SWAN, your ambassador has permission to set the record straight!
- 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.
- Post your SWAN certificate on social media using the #StartsWithAName hashtag to spread the word and raise awareness of the importance of a name.
As Senator Kamala D. Harris stated:
“When I see the people who have had the experience of having been given a name from their family – which is one of the greatest gifts that a family can give you. It is the first gift that a child – usually when they enter the earth – receives from their family. It is usually informed by tradition and love and the hope and aspiration the family has for that child. It is something precious and sacred and it is a part of their identity. And when I see people fighting for the right for that to be respected and treated in a dignified way, I applaud and salute that”.
While the concept of SWAN was developed in 2019, the SWAN movement belongs to the companies that adopt the practices of ensuring a culture of correct name pronunciation is adopted.
This movement is much larger than Version 1, and we look forward to hearing what you have done with SWAN too. Don’t forget to sign our charter to represent your stance on SWAN.
How can you belong in a place where people can’t say your name?
That’s the premise of Version 1’s #StartsWithAName campaign (see our video below). 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.
You’ve lived with your name all your life. Your family can all pronounce it. You instinctively turn your head when you hear it — it’s an intrinsic part of you. On your first day in a new workplace — when you have “newbie” emblazoned on your forehead — correcting your boss’s mispronunciation is not your desired starting point.
Dr Anita Sands does a brilliant job of explaining DIBs here. DIBs says what we all instinctively know — you can have all the diversity in the world and be invited to the dance, but you won’t thrive unless you feel that you belong. This is not new thinking — Maslow was on about it in the 1950s — but it’s relatively new to the workplace. Our expectations of work are changing. Dan Siegel says that when you create an “attachment home” at work, people give more.
When looking for submissions for our own SWAN video at Version 1, our Head of DIBs Aoibhe Cantwell nabbed a colleague who was perplexed at first — very willing to help out, but baffled as their name is a no-brainer to say.
However, when you reassess your name with your diversity lens in hand, it can dawn on you that your name is not so simple in a country miles away.
Make pronouncing your name as fun as possible! Use emojis 🤪, rhyming words 🎵, celebrities 🎥, famous places 🌳, funny comparisons 🎉 or anything that will make your name pronunciation as memorable as possible for your colleagues so they won’t have an excuse for mispronouncing your name again! 🤣
The Fun Stuff!
Sometimes phonetic pronunciation makes it more confusing, try describing it using rhyming, objects or emojis!
#StartsWithAName at Version 1
How SWAN took flight...
Belonging starts with a name. Inclusion starts with asking how your colleagues' names are pronounced.
Be Part of the SWAN-Certified Community
We are releasing SWAN into the wild and certifying our charter signatories in December of 2020
Contribute to the Community
We want your blogs, vlogs, videos, dances, songs – you name it! Please share any materials you have using the #StartsWithAName and we will include you in the SWAN newsletter and here on the website.