When it comes to building an inclusive workplace there are always two major aspects that affect the outcome: 1) the policies, rules, and stated core beliefs of the group, and 2) the day-to-day culture that lives and extends these rules and beliefs beyond the paper they are printed on. It's possible to have the most inclusive policies in place and still have a workplace that is hostile to marginalized employees in practice.
What can you do to eliminate gendered language and binary thinking as standard practice at your organization?
- Language Example: Use "folks" instead of "ladies and gentlemen" since the latter excludes non-binary people.
- Copywriting Example: Use "they" instead of "he or she" or alternating pronouns in promotional copy and policies.
- Policy Example: Make your parental leave policy non-gendered.
- Culture Example: If a gender-nonconforming male employee wants to wear makeup, what would you do? Don't expect or require employees to dress, act, or otherwise meet cultural gender expectations.
How do you actively create and maintain your company culture?
- How can you challenge people to take action on the words they say they value?
- Can you give employees both positive and negative examples of specific behavior that relates to your values?
- How can you give employees a safe space to learn without shaming them?
Can your organization find ways to be both diverse and focus on inclusion?
- Do: Find a way to include a broader group in D&I activities and not tokenize marginalized folks.
- Do: Hire diverse candidates and make sure that they have a seat at the table and a voice that is listened to.
- Don't: Hire diverse candidates and then think that the job is done.
- Don't: Accidentally tokenize your marginalized employees. Instead, make sure marginalized groups have a concrete benefit from the work you are doing.
How can you make sure your organization is focusing on the safety and inclusion of all employees instead of discomfort?
- Example: If another employee is uncomfortable with a transgender individual using a shared bathroom, there may be a temptation to ask the trans person to use a single-stall bathroom. Instead, the person who is uncomfortable with sharing should be the one who can use the single-stall bathroom to alleviate their discomfort.
Is your organization inclusive when it comes to your clients and customers?
- Don't assume gender on the phone or by appearance
- Share your pronouns proactively
- Allow for names other than legal names when possible
- Allow non-binary options on forms and other documents
- How could you demonstrate that your organization is safe for LGBTQ customers and clients?
How to Be an Ally
You may have heard the word "ally" used in reference to certain groups, including LGBTQ folks. A simple way to identify an ally is to look for someone who is "sticking their neck out" by taking on a burden for a marginalized group that does not affect them personally. In a world that can be unfriendly at best to transgender and non-binary people, allies are worth their weight in gold.
If you make a mistake about someone's name or pronoun, what would you do?
- Example: If you accidentally use the wrong name for someone, correct yourself and apologize quickly and move on without making a big deal of it.
- Don't: Make an extensive apology and talk about how hard it is to change. This easily results in the transitioning individual feeling like a burden. Those that are transitioning generally do appreciate that it is hard to change. Your effort means the world to them.
- Would you out someone (reveal their status as transgender, non-binary, or gay) without their permission? Can you think of ways to keep from doing this by accident?
Do you know the difference between an invasive question and one that is appropriate?
- If you have a question about transgender or non-binary issues, can you think of ways to get an answer without going directly to the transitioning individual?
- Do: Continue to be friendly and ask work appropriate questions like you would any other coworker.
- Don't: Ask about surgery topics, genitals, or sexual preference.
- Don't: Send news updates about persecution of trans or non-binary individuals without consent. Even if you are supportive, constant exposure can be hard to manage emotionally.
Do you know the words that it's best to avoid when talking about LGBTQ coworkers?
- The easiest way to get it right is to use the language that individuals you interact with say they prefer.
- If you see an transgender or non-binary individual being harassed, would you know what to do?
- If you hear a negative myth or stereotype about LGBTQ people, would you say something?
- What would you do if you heard an inappropriate joke about an LGBTQ coworker?
- If a coworker is having trouble with another employee's transition, could you help them?
Do you know that gender and sexuality are separate?
- Do: Use non-gendered language when asking about family or partners.
- Don't: Assume a certain sexuality for a person because they have transitioned. This is also good advice in general.
How would you refer to a transgender or non-binary coworker in the past tense?
- Do: Use the individuals current name and pronouns when referring to events in the past.
- Don't: Use old names or pronouns because "that's who they were at the time."
- Can you normalize the sharing of pronouns by introducing yourself with yours and including them in your email signature and business cards?
Leadership & Management
In many organizations, the tone and culture of the group starts from the top. Any action that individuals in leadership or management positions take will have an outsize impact due to their structural influence. Support for transgender and non-binary individuals by leadership can make a huge difference, while a lack of support can enable bad behavior and harassment.
- Would your leaders, managers, and HR personnel know what to do if someone came out to them?
Do your organizational leaders and managers have training on how to be supportive of transgender and non-binary employees?
- If they don't, who could you reach out to in order to provide it?
- Could this training happen on a regular basis?
- Does the leadership of your company know the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce?
Do your leaders and managers actively listen to employees from marginalized groups and take action based on their feedback?
- Do: If an individual from a marginalized group gives you feedback, it's because they trust you. Actively listen and validate how they feel even if you disagree with some aspects of the situation. You cannot dictate someone's feelings, they are real.
- Don't: Tell the individual they are overreacting and label them as "troublemakers" or "not team players". They are taking a personal risk to make your organization better for everyone.