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Businesses advised on how to talk about gender identity in the workplace

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Businesses have been offered tips to help them encourage positive conversations about gender identity in the workplace. 

FDM Group, whose mission is to bring people and technology together, has advised companies large and small on ways they can foster a supportive work environment that allows everyone to express their identities and seek support if they need to. 

Gender identity is an essential aspect of every person’s identity, and therefore it can be a sensitive but very important topic to address – particularly at work. At its most fundamental level, a person’s gender identity is the gender that a person identifies with, which may or may not conform to their physical appearance or the sex they were assigned at birth.

Therefore it’s important for workplaces to address and discuss gender identity, in order to create a more inclusive environment that recognises and respects the diversity of their employees.

Not only is this required for a pleasant and amicable workplace, but under the UK’s Equality Act 2010, gender reassignment is a protected characteristic. This means that individuals who are undergoing, have undergone, or intend to undergo the process of transitioning from one gender to another are protected from discrimination in the workplace. 

Kate Hawthorn, Director of Consultant Talent at FDM Group, comments “By fostering a culture of respect, openness and inclusivity, you can contribute to a more supportive and affirming workplace for everyone, regardless of their gender identity.

“It’s also worth noting that organisations that prioritise inclusivity and diversity tend to have a positive reputation both internally and externally. This can help you attract top talent, enhance the company’s brand image, and improve relationships with your customers and clients.”

Here are some tips to help create a respectful and inclusive environment for conversations about gender identity:

  1. Invite open conversations

It is up to each individual whether or not they choose to share their gender identity journey with the workplace. While some employees may choose to discuss their gender identity with coworkers, others may regard this as a strictly personal matter.

However, you can accommodate both scenarios by normalising the concept of varying gender identities within the workplace and inviting open conversations where appropriate. You can do this by encouraging employees to include their preferred pronouns in workplace correspondence, for example. 

  • Address direct and indirect discrimination

Some employees may be unintentionally resistant to accommodations for transgender individuals within the workplace. These people might unknowingly engage in discriminatory behaviour, causing their colleagues to feel judged or uncomfortable about their identity at work. It is important not to disregard the behavior of these employees, but rather provide them with guidance, access to essential resources, and education. By doing so, you can encourage them to develop a greater understanding of and consideration for diverse gender identities.

However, deliberate and overt acts of harassment or discrimination based on gender identity should not be accepted, and it is crucial to have company policies in place to address such behaviour.

  • Develop and implement company-wide policy and training

It should be a company-wide responsibility to maintain awareness of varied gender identities 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 adopt a strong, company-wide policy of antidiscrimination on the basis of gender. You might want to incorporate guidelines on pronoun disclosure, bathroom etiquette, and dress codes for example. 

It’s also important for employers to offer comprehensive training on gender identity, diversity, and inclusion to all employees – including managers and HR representatives. This training should aim to enhance overall comprehension of gender identity, offering guidance on the proper and respectful use of pronouns and terminology. 

By providing such training, employers can create an environment that encourages open and sensitive communication. This will equip managers, HR representatives, and colleagues more generally with the necessary confidence to address any concerns that may arise.

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