Addressing Gender Identity in the Workplace with Grace and Professionalism
Does the topic of gender identity seem too difficult or personal to address within the workplace? You’re not alone if you’re unsure on how to address an employee in transition or handle unique scenarios surrounding the topic.
More than 25% of transgender people have experienced some form of discrimination at work. By making small changes to accommodate diverse gender representations, employers ensure the safety and security of all employees. No matter their gender identity, employees have the right to feel secure and have a support system that protects their rights in the office.
If you would like to learn more about how to approach the topic of gender identity in the workplace and build a support system for your employees, we have outlined some possible options below.
Open the Door for Conversation
Ultimately, it is up to each individual whether or not they choose to share their transition experience with the workplace. While some people may choose to discuss their gender identity with coworkers and supervisors alike, some employees may find this to be a strictly personal matter.
The best way to accommodate both scenarios is to normalize the concept of varying gender identities within the workplace. This can be done through small gestures, like encouraging employees to include preferred pronouns in workplace correspondence. Reference this pronoun guide from the LGBT Life Center if you need an overview on common terms and when to use them.
Additionally, employers should host sensitivity training exercises for all employees to become better acquainted with changing gender identity terminology and anti-discriminatory guidelines. Supervisors should also work to create an open channel of communication with employees so that individuals feel safe discussing workplace issues associated with gender identity.
Some employees may be resistant to accommodations for transgender or intersex individuals within the workplace. These people may, unintentionally, discriminate against their fellow coworkers, making them feel judged or uncomfortable with their identity at work. It is best to not dismiss these employees’ behavior, but instead guide them with resources and education in the hopes that they will become more considerate of varying representations of gender identity.
However, intentional and directly transgressive acts of harassment or discrimination against employees on the basis of gender identity should not be tolerated. While only 20 states currently have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers extended protections that include all LGBTQ workers, regardless of location.
Tackle the Subject of Bathrooms
The subject of the bathroom is perhaps one of the most controversial facing gender identity and transgender individuals, but it can be handled in a simple, mindful way.
From the outset, employers should make strong, non-discrimination policy with direct reference to gender identity. Within this policy, accommodations made for personal spaces like the bathroom should be outlined.
To be considerate of a person’s gender identity, they will, likely, desire to use the restroom for their respective identity, whether or not that conforms with sex identified at birth. Employees should feel safe knowing that they are welcome to use the restroom in the space they define, whether that be male, female, or gender-neutral.
If possible, employers can make gender-neutral bathroom options available for transgender or non gender-conforming individuals. These gender-neutral facilities can be added either in addition to the standard male/female bathrooms, or these gender-specific facilities can be removed altogether so that all bathroom spaces are essentially gender-neutral.
Develop and Implement Company-Wide Policy
It should be a company-wide responsibility to maintain awareness of varied gender identity within the workplace. All employees should feel safe and supported within the workplace community no matter their gender identification.
In order to ensure this, it is best to adapt a strong, company-wide policy of antidiscrimination on the basis of gender. Such a policy should clearly outline all steps taken to build an inclusive workplace, including but not limited to:
- Pronoun disclosure and respect (encourage gender neutral pronouns to be used in recruitment ads, employee handbooks, emails, and in casual conversation)
- Bathroom etiquette (see previous section)
- Company uniform (avoid gender-specific uniform requirements)
- Procedures to report discrimination and/or harassment (follow protocol for every incident)
To learn more about suggested policies, feel free to consult this resource from LearnhowtoBecome.org.
Working to address varied gender identity within the workplace will look different for every company, depending on respective employee needs and company resources.
But bringing new ideas to the table and effectively addressing gender identity in the workplace will only serve to benefit a team as a whole.
If you do not have an HR partner, Tandem HR is happy to help. Fill out the form below or give us a call today at 630-928-0510.
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