Leadership

Gender Identity in the Workplace: How to Create an Inclusive Environment

diversity and inclusion

Every employer wants the people who work for them to have pride in their organization. Companies strive to make people feel comfortable and have introduced policies that support a positive employee experience. Gone are the days of windowless cubicles and silent floors—today, they’re replaced by casual Fridays, workplace happy hours, and collaborative roundtable discussions.  

So, what are companies doing to promote pride within the employees themselves? Gender identity has growing visibility, especially now, when many companies have created initiatives to celebrate Pride Month. But, beyond hanging a rainbow flag or mentioning pride in a company newsletter, what can companies do to be more inclusive of gender identity and orientation in the workplace?

First, it’s helpful to start by making the language at work more accepting. Here are some definitions to keep in mind:

  • Gender Identity: One’s concept of self as male, female, both, or neither. How individuals identify internally and communicate to others.
  • Gender Expression: The external appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, voice, or haircut. A person’s gender expression may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being masculine or feminine.
  • Cisgender: A person who’s gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transgender: An umbrella description for a person who’s gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Non-Binary/Gender Non-Conforming: A person who’s gender identity does not fit within the male/female binary.

Now that we have established definitions for common terms, let’s look at the importance of recognizing and respecting gender identity and orientation in the workplace. Companies want to attract the best talent, and gender shouldn’t be an important factor for predicting an employee’s success at work. For example, perception-based studies from the Pew Research Center show 80% of Americans believe gender doesn’t affect a person’s ability to lead. Although there were noticeable differences between key strengths (like honesty and risk-taking), it’s clear that the professional landscape is gradually becoming more gender-inclusive and equitable.


Learn more about entering the job search as a diverse candidate.


How to Create a Work Environment That’s Gender-Inclusive

Health Insurance Policies

Healthcare for trans people can be a massive burden, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to succeed professionally. Choose a health insurance policy that covers hormone replacement therapy, gender-affirming surgeries, and mental healthcare so that any employee who wants to transition can do so with company support that won’t drive them into debt. 

Transition Plans

Transitioning can be an extremely difficult, taxing, and personal process, so work with your HR department to put individualized transition plans in place. These policies should include sensitivity coaching for fellow colleagues, an easy process for name changes, and paid time off for gender-affirming surgeries.

EEO Policy/Mission Statements

Unfortunately, many companies do not have an EEO Policy or a mission statement that offers protection to employees who are not cisgender. Confirm with HR that your company’s EEO policy offers protection based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. While you’re at it, ensure your mission statement aligns with these values, especially if it’s client-facing.   

Gender Inclusive Spaces

Employees should feel comfortable using the restrooms and have consistent expectations for their expected attire. Remove any gendered language from your dress code and provide facilities that are gender-neutral.

Normalization

Anytime a trans person discloses their identity, they are risking retaliation and discrimination from their manager. Normalize the experience of giving and asking for pronouns, and use they/them/theirs in your company documents and handbooks. “He or she” isn’t the default modifier any longer, since some employees don’t follow the gender binary. This small step makes all employees and applicants feel welcome, and AP, MLA, APA, and the Chicago Manual of Style have all embraced using “they” as a singular, gender-neutral noun.

Diversity and Inclusion Trainings

Not every employee will be educated or accepting. As companies invest in diversity and inclusion training for their office, follow this guide to help with the process. Keep in mind that training should be mandatory for all employees, including upper management, to ensure accountability.

Lead by Example

Be the change you want to see! Offer your pronouns when introducing yourself and in email signatures. Stay informed about current issues that may impact your LGBTQ+ colleagues, and find ways to support them.

The world we live in is constantly evolving. Transgender and non-binary identities aren’t new—but we finally have the language to describe those identities, which were always present but had less visibility in earlier generations. Companies need to adapt so all employees feel supported and welcomed.

At Ivy Exec, we strive to lead by example this month and all year long. We will continue to publish content focused on inclusivity, host trainings for our team to ensure that all employees are treated fairly, and hang our pride flags unapologetically. 


Schedule a free care consultation with Amber, a Career Advisor with Ivy Exec.


 

About the Author

Amber Crow is a Career Advisor for Ivy Exec with three years of experience. She is focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace through her website TheQueerCareerBlog.com.