NASA Criticized For Removing Pronouns from Goddard Employees’ Virtual IDs

NASA Criticized For Removing Pronouns from Goddard Employees’ Virtual IDs

Employees at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, one of the agency’s key research centers, have complained on social media that their option to display pronouns after their names in their online IDs has been eliminated. Employees had the option of adding their pronouns after their name and before their center affiliation until last week. They’d show up in emails and Microsoft Teams, which would come in handy during massive virtual meetings. Those individuals were denied the opportunity to do so.

“NASA Agency Leadership eliminated visible pronouns from all of our IDs in a broad effort. All because our use of pronouns made other employees uncomfortable, and they linked our use of pronouns to Sports Team Pride,” according to a Reddit thread. “They also tried to justify it by claiming that the agency couldn’t spare any money for this program (which is free).” They did all of this during a meeting that they refused to allow anyone record, and they also refused to put a rationale for the decision in writing.”

Trans and non-binary persons have led the way in making pronouns more visible in the last decade or so. Many others who do not identify as such have benefited from its use, as is typically the case. People with gender-ambiguous names (e.g. Alex) or names that are common for one gender in one country but not in another (e.g. Ashley, Andrea) – or even names originating from other languages that English-only speakers might not associate with a specific gender – all benefit from the ability to state their pronouns. IFLScience contacted NASA Goddard to learn more about the incident and the reasons for the decision to delete the pronouns. In response, I received the following statement.

“As part of an effort to create a more inclusive workplace, NASA recently completed an IT project at Goddard Space Flight Center that allowed about 125 employees to test the option of including their gender pronouns in NASA’s email display fields, which currently include each employee’s name, center, and an organizational code.” The test’s findings will be utilized to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, according to Steve Shih, NASA Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

“NASA fully supports each employee’s freedom to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns. All NASA personnel may now personalize their email signature blocks to incorporate their gender pronouns. This choice remains unaltered, and NASA leadership supports it so that personnel may express their gender identities and demonstrate support for the LGBTQIA+ community.” The message makes no mention of the concerns expressed on social media. 

IFLScience has inquired about the nature of the IT project, whether individuals who participated were aware that it had a deadline, and when the “learnings” indicated will be disclosed. According to the American Physics Society, 40 percent of Tran’s professionals in physics departments are misgendered at work. IFLScience also inquired about the agency’s efforts to protect Trans and non-binary workers.