How we can make the workplace inclusive for trans and non-binary people

Continuing our series of Pride-related blogs, Zone’s people and talent officer Katie Clarke discusses ways to create a comfortable working environment for all…

Even as a member of the community, I’m terrible when it comes to understanding all of the LGBTQ+ letters, flags and acronyms. I consider myself open to finding out as much as I can, but it’s often quite hard to find the right information without seeming ignorant. Luckily for me, to celebrate Pride this year Cognizant’s queer workplace group ran its first ever non-binary and trans training.

This gave me the perfect excuse to ask those awkward questions which I felt like I should already know the answers to.

A basic education around all the LGBTQ+ flags made me realise that I had no clue about what’s been evolving in the queer world over the past few years. No longer was the rainbow flag the main point of reference for all representation (especially with so many others, such as the NHS, using this now). We also have flags to include all letters and diversities within the community, including the Progress pride flag to represent non-binary/transgender, people of colour and those who lost their lives to Aids.

“The white, pink, and light blue reflect the colours of the transgender flag, while the brown and black stripes represent people of colour and those lost to Aids.”

There has been an increased visibility and conversations around people identifying as non-binary or trans, with celebs openly speaking about being transgender (Elliot Page), non-binary (Demi Lovato) and coming out stories being covered regularly in the media. In film and TV, LGBTQ+ characters are no longer sidekick-fulfilling stereotypes — they’re the main event. And the number of LGBTQ+ characters on screen has reached a record high this year.

This increased visibility is great for everyone, particularly the younger generation who are growing up seeing representation and acceptance. However, not everyone knows how to make members of the LQBTQ+ community feel comfortable in real-life situations, especially when working alongside someone who identifies as trans or non-binary.

So how do we make the workplace inclusive to trans and non-binary people?

Pronouns and titles — How we use and manage these can be so important to a non-binary or trans person, yet are such an easy win for a business. By adding she/her or he/him to your email or chat app, we can easily avoid misgendering someone. It gives a person the opportunity to label themselves correctly to colleagues and even clients in a subtle way, and to avoid awkward conversations and presumptions.

Employers should be asking for preferred pronouns from everyone, to set the standard and avoid discomfort and ignorance from the beginning of each person’s employment. Titles are a different matter — why do we even need them? Adding Miss or Mrs when applying for a role is completely irrelevant to our experience and skills.

But I’m not trans or non-binary, my pronouns are obvious — why do I need to make them visible?

If you identify with the gender you were born into (cisgender), you may feel this is unnecessary. Normalising visible pronouns helps those who need to define theirs feel more comfortable and sets the standard.

Carefully choosing your words — Take time when sending a message or speaking to your team to think about how you refer to them. Avoid terms such ‘guys’ or ‘girls’ and keep a more generic format of ‘all’, ‘folks’ or ‘team’ to cover a broader spectrum. It seems obvious when we say “know your audience”, and this shouldn’t differ in the workplace.

Creating a safe environment — Lots of businesses now include gender-neutral bathrooms and toilets to try to accommodate for everyone. Modifications like this can help create a comfortable working environment as well as showing more equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Plus this can only be a good thing if it helps reduce those long women’s toilet queues, right?

Getting your talent right — Finally, ensure you have the right people in your business with the right forward-thinking mindset. Make sure you’re constantly educating and opening people’s minds to other LGBTQ+ and diverse spectrums with training and guidance. We are all on a spectrum, whether this be sexual preference or gender identity and acknowledging this as a business is key.

I’ve learned that it’s important to embrace this change and make sure you provide a safe environment for all your staff. Just as we have so many other training and guides within a business we must follow, perhaps non-binary and trans training should be mandatory for everyone?

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