Thought Leadership

Augmenting The Gender Spectrum At The Workplace

Companies have come a long way since labelling gender as male or female. However, there has been a growing recognition for people who fall outside traditional gender roles; these include non-binary genders. ‘Non-binary’ is an umbrella term for people who do not consider themselves either male or female but fall under the category of gender-fluid or another gender entirely. The estimated proportion of gender-diverse individuals varies between 0.1 and 2% of the population. 


The trend of putting up pronouns on social media served as an excellent way for many individuals to come out and own up to themselves. With several celebrities such as Demi Lovato identifying herself as they/them has got the conversation started to support and find more inclusive ways for them to show up at work without hiding their true selves. 


A survey published by Beyond the Binary in March 2017 revealed that only 1% of the 225 non-binary people surveyed felt ‘completely protected’ by current equality policies at work, and 42% had a negative experience related to their gender identity in the workplace. Despite the growing awareness of non-binary genders — 50% of millennials believe gender is a spectrum according to a 2015 Fusion poll — however, it’s still common for openly non-binary people to feel uncomfortable at work. How can companies work towards changing this conundrum? Listed below are several areas where companies can look into to make a difference: 


     1. Gender-Neutral Language

Lera Boroditsky, a professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, writes, “Even what might be deemed frivolous aspects of language can have far-reaching subconscious effects on how we see the world.” Before addressing a person as he or she, always be sure to ask them their preferred pronoun so that everyone is at ease. Employees should also be given the ability to self-identify on HR platforms and systems. 


“The gender-neutral ‘Mx’ can be used as a title for individuals who do not identify as a particular gender,” according to Merriam-Webster. 


     2. Gender Expression

Office dress codes shouldn’t restrain individuals from expressing their authentic gender. There is a need to modify dress code statements to avoid bolstering any gender stereotypes. A great example of a gender-neutral dress code is when CEO Mary Barra held the position of Vice President of Global Human Resources; she replaced their 10-page dress code with two words: ‘Dress Appropriately.’ The move empowered employees and positively impacted the company, strengthening their stance on inclusivity.  


     3. Sensitivity Training

It is vital to implement comprehensive sensitivity and anti-harassment training—from senior management to junior employees. Try creating a culture of inclusivity where all employees become allies and advocates for non-binary inclusion, both within the office and outside the world. These initiatives can be a part of the pre-existing diversity training or may be implemented separately to spread awareness about non-binary individuals. Inviting non-binary community advocates or representatives to address management and employees is a great option. GLAAD is an excellent organization with great tools to help train and educate employees to understand LGBTQ employees’ issues better.


A non-binary employee, Filar suggested, “Make significant, repeated training and education a part of working and offer trans employees and freelancers a clear grievance process that won’t backfire on them for using it.”


     4. Company Documentation

Most documentation is precise when it comes to gender. For nonbinary individuals, this puts them in a very uncomfortable position that does not correspond to their authentic gender. Look through company documentation, and if they haven’t been changed yet, this would be a crucial step for empowering non-binary individuals in the company. As part of the documentation, take a look at places that actively exclude (or exclude by omission) LGBTQ employees, including health policies, and plan to make adjustments.


     5. Bathroom And Locker Rooms

One of the most critical discussions in non-binary inclusion centres around binary washrooms. Recently, the expectation that trans employees should have access to bathrooms that correspond with their presentation regardless of the transition stage is increasingly expected. However, for non-binary individuals, gendered bathrooms are still problematic. An excellent option for overcoming this hurdle is switching to gender-neutral washrooms. 


In conclusion, as Pat Wadors, Chief People Officer Procore at LinkedIn, said, “When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization.”