Changing Perspectives - Not all names roll off the tongue, but all names are important

Elena Giannini
By Elena Giannini | 7 June 2023
Elena Giannini.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

“Giannininiii? Gianni? Jiannini? How do I spell that? Sorry, never going to be able to pronounce that…”
Having a surname that has more N’s and I’s than necessary often leaves me wanting more…more room on a form, more characters on a password and at times, more understanding from those I meet.

I know this isn’t a weight only bestowed upon me. I share it with the Tzakises of the world, the Dominellos, the Zawadzkas. And it gets tiring.

Can you describe any challenges you encountered?
While watching people stumble over your name can be a joint giggle, it can also be sad. Years of this can cause you to move away from who you are, preferring to go by a much easier nickname, or agreeing when people say things to you like: “Oh man you must have been teased at school.”

For the record, I was, and seeing as this is as good a time as any to reveal my childhood secret, I was dubbed Elena Spaghetti from Years 2-4.

Your name is your identity. It is an intrinsic part of who you are and how you are identified. Not all names roll off the tongue, but all names are important.

What can we do to eliminate bias and engender inclusivity in our industry?
We can take the time to ask for the correct pronunciation. Confirm if you have said a name correctly or simply give a compliment to a name you haven’t heard before; you are helping that person feel seen and comfortable.

Having your name pronounced correctly can be a privilege easily taken for granted if you haven’t experienced endless mispronunciations and not-so-subtle commentary.

But take it from me, the impact on people of having their name pronounced correctly is really powerful. It makes us feel like we belong, like we are part of the community rather than outsiders. And it shows that the person pronouncing the name correctly, genuinely cares about inclusion.

Our industry especially has no excuse. We are at the forefront of new tech, understanding the latest marketing science and unpacking complex problems. Why we continue to shrug off the correct pronunciation of someone’s name is frankly beyond me. We represent all aspects of society, and we should be humbled by that role – it is our job to understand.

From a girl that dreaded introducing myself, to one who is proud, I implore you to get it right. Ask how you pronounce a name if you are unsure, check you did it right and for God’s sake don’t call any first-generation Italian, Elena Spaghetti.

Elena Giannini is Business Director at Avenue C

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