The Importance of Freedom of Gender Expression in the Workplace
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 10-29-2019 11:14 PM
Synopsis: Learn how to create a work culture where everyone is respected by embracing the freedom of gender expression in your workplace.
The modern-day workplace is significantly different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Everything from the rise of remote working to rethinking traditional performance reviews has changed the way that we collaborate in the office. But having said this, one of the largest changes has involved freedom of gender expression in the workplace.
The honest truth is that until the past several years, gender identity has been a taboo subject in the workplace. Arguably, it still is. However, times have changed. Organizations of all shapes and sizes must implement controls and procedures to ensure freedom of gender expression. Ultimately, by doing so, organizations will create a workplace culture where all employees are respected.
Why Freedom of Gender Expression is So Important
Freedom of gender expression in the workplace is critical for several reasons. Most prominently, it creates an open and supportive work culture. A business’s culture is one of its most important attributes. In fact, it directly affects an organization’s bottom line. Therefore, an organizational culture that is unsupportive or makes employees feel uncomfortable will negatively impact that organization’s financial performance.
Forcing your non-binary employees to adopt a certain pronoun or follow a certain dress code contributes to a negative work culture. It creates stress for your non-binary employees. Even if the organization doesn’t intend to cause this stress, these practices directly question these employees’ identifies. In sum, they do not feel welcome, and these feelings naturally translate to the quality of their work. By contrast, adopting a gender-neutral organization empowers your non-binary employees. They do not feel the pressure to conform to language or practices that fly in the face of their identity. They can focus on their actual work rather than being confronted with challenges to their gender identity.
Along with creating an open and supportive culture, freedom of gender expression can attract top talent. Even if top talent does not identify as non-binary, adopting an inclusive policy shows that your organization cares for all of its employees. It doesn't just talk about inclusion. On the contrary, it puts in place practices that are designed to actually create that inclusion. To put it simply, this is a powerful signal. It can make the difference between a top candidate opting for your organization over a competitor.
Finally, freedom of gender expression can help you fulfill your compliance obligations. While there isn’t yet a federal statute that provides protections for gender identity or expression, there are several states that have implemented some legislation. Further, some litigants have successfully argued that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a form of discrimination based on sex or disability. Regardless of whether you live in a state that has implemented legislation in this area, being proactive can eliminate any potential legal issues in the long run.
Tips on Implementation
If your organization hasn’t yet embraced a culture of freedom of gender expression, there are several things to keep in mind.
First, take some time to review your ongoing policies and procedures. Consider modifying things like your company dress code and his/her pronouns from your company documentation. While it may take some time to review your documents and policies, making these changes will significantly quicken inclusion within your organization.
Beyond reviewing documents and procedures, it also helps to educate your employees. Think about implementing a training session on inclusivity, where you discuss topics like gender identity and expression. You can also choose to send an email or memo that further explains things like your organization’s gender policy and how employees can address their non-binary colleagues.
Finally, be an open book. If an employee has a question about gender expression in your office, ensure that they can speak with someone, whether it is you or a member of your human resources department. Also, consider setting up an anonymous inbox that employees can use if they wish to remain anonymous.
Freedom of gender expression is an important subject for any workplace. By ensuring that all of your employees feel comfortable in your office, you will be on your way to creating a warm, positive culture. Not only will it serve your current employees, but it will send a loud signal to the market.
That signal? Your organization cares for all of its employees—no matter how they self-identify.