As a non-binary person in the working world, I have experienced a few fears and obstacles in navigating the workplace. This has ranged from toilets to email signatures, and a lack of general education around the non-binary space. I am fortunate to have a manager who has been incredibly supportive throughout the process and put measures in place to make sure I feel comfortable and safe in my working environment.
The experience of being gender neutral in a workplace can vary depending on the specific work environment, the culture of the organisation, and the attitudes of colleagues and superiors. I have included some common experiences that individuals who identify as gender neutral might encounter:
- Pronouns and Identity: One aspect of being gender neutral is often using gender-neutral pronouns such as "they/them" instead of traditional gendered pronouns. In a supportive workplace, colleagues and management may be open to using the correct pronouns and respecting an individual's chosen identity. However, there may be instances where some people are unfamiliar with or hesitant to use gender-neutral pronouns, which can lead to misunderstandings or misgendering.
- Discrimination and Bias: Unfortunately, some workplaces may have a lack of awareness or acceptance of gender-neutral identities. Discrimination and bias can manifest in various ways, such as exclusion, harassment or insensitivity. It is important for companies to foster an inclusive environment and have policies in place to address discrimination based on gender identity.
- Supportive Work Environment: Many workplaces strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees. This may involve implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, providing education and training on gender identity, and promoting an atmosphere of respect and understanding. A supportive workplace can make a significant difference in the experience of gender-neutral individuals.
- Advocacy and Visibility: Gender-neutral employees might take on advocacy roles within the workplace, educating others and raising awareness about gender identities and issues. Some organisations have employee resource groups or diversity committees that can provide a platform for this advocacy work.
With these factors in mind, what can a workplace do to improve education and awareness around gender-neutral pronouns?
- Education and Training: Educate employees about gender diversity, gender-neutral pronouns, and their significance. Offer workshops, training sessions or resources to ensure everyone understands the importance of using inclusive language and feels comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns.
- Update Policies and Documentation: Review workplace policies, guidelines and documentation to ensure they reflect and respect gender diversity. Include information on gender-neutral pronouns and outline expectations for their use.
- Lead by Example: Encourage leaders and management to lead by example. When supervisors and executives consistently use gender-neutral pronouns, it sets a precedent for others to follow suit and creates a culture of inclusivity.
- Open Dialogue: Foster open dialogue and communication within the workplace. Provide opportunities for employees to discuss their preferred pronouns and encourage respectful conversations around gender identity.
- Normalise Pronoun Sharing: Normalise the practice of sharing pronouns during introductions or in email signatures. This practice not only demonstrates support for gender diversity but also reduces assumptions about gender identities.
Struggling with issues related to gender identity in the workplace can be challenging, however there are steps you can take to seek support and create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Your well-being is important, and it is crucial to prioritise your mental and emotional health. If the struggles become overwhelming, consider seeking support from mental health professionals who specialise in LGBTQ+ issues. A few UK resources include: