“There is no discrimination in my workplace."
How true would you say that statement is? Of course, we hope no discrimination is taking place in our workplaces but as HR professionals and leaders, it’s our responsibility to take off the rose-colored glasses and start thinking empathetically about our diverse employee populations. Despite operating in an era when, theoretically, discrimination should be a thing of the past, it’s imperative we ensure safe and welcoming environments to all by updating our policies and keeping a pulse on the feelings and experiences of our employees.
One of the first things you can do as a leader is analyze the inclusivity of your non-discrimination policies and be sure they cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
This year, the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) found that 83 percent of Fortune 500s include gender identity in their non-discrimination policy. This is significant progress since 2002 when that number sat at a mere three percent.
The responsibility to create a welcoming environment that is respectful of all gender identities and forms of gender expression falls on your entire workforce but it begins, of course, with leadership. Supporting nonbinary gender employees plays a critical role in creating a diverse workforce and attracting and retaining talent.
Here are three strategies to help maintain a workplace that is inclusive of nonbinary gender employees.
Update your non-discrimination policies. First and foremost, ensure your non-discrimination policies are updated to include gender identity and gender expression. If your company does not update policies to include this, you will be left behind and lose talent in the long run.
Additionally, when updating policies, evaluate all areas that could potentially lead to discrimination. For example, management should assess whether titles such as Mr. or Ms. are necessary on forms like those for performance reviews. According to the latest Associated Press Stylebook, gender-neutral pronouns such as “their” and “they” are acceptable on official documents.
Educate employees and encourage inclusive behaviors. There are no exceptions when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. As an employer, you have the responsibility to make it clear to all employees that discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and gender expression are unacceptable. Use a range of typical communications tools, such as trainings or internal emails, to educate and encourage your employees in this area.
If your company doesn’t have a diversity and inclusion employee resource group, now is the time to begin one. This type of group will foster a sense of community and visibility of diverse populations within your company, and it will also educate others on best practices for diversity and inclusion. Plus, according to the CEI, a steadily growing number of top employers include senior leader engagement around the business’s diversity and inclusion goals, driving higher impact.
Bring awareness to potential biases in recruitment and hiring. Unfortunately, it’s easy for biases to show up in recruitment, at times without us even knowing it. Your recruitment teams need to examine their own conscious and unconscious biases to ensure they don’t create uncomfortable situations in interviews. To begin, examine your own behavior so you can be aware of the environment you’re creating – and ask your recruitment leads to do the same.
With forethought and empathy, you can help create a safe, welcoming workplace for everyone, including nonbinary gender employees.