ED&I: 3 actions to support non-binary employees
We’re celebrating Pride month by elevating the voices and experiences of our friends, colleagues, and peers who have something to say.
As a part of this, Jess Cope, our Marketing Coordinator, has kindly penned something they would like to share about their experiences.
“What are the problems non-binary and gender variant people face at work? I can only speak from my own experience, and the fact is I only came out to my colleagues last week; some may even be finding out through this blog!
The only people I felt needed to know how I identify were close work friends, and those involved when I legally changed my name, as there is still a lot of confusion and stigma around non-binary identities. They are seen as a new trend that teenagers have taken on, when there are plenty of gender non-conforming and trans people in the workplace today.
I’ve worked for Amba for over 5 years and although we are a kind and progressive bunch, there still felt like this risk and anxiety in coming out. There is a fear that coming out will be seen as a scheme to gain attention. When, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I’d rather keep to myself. I hate the idea of having to lay my personal life out on the meeting room table and educate others for the rest of my career.
So, what changed?
Amba’s new mission. Our offering changed, echoing employees social, environmental and ethical values and that engaged us all internally, too. Before I came out to the whole business, the senior leadership team had implemented the below LGBTQAI+ positive changes. This gave me the confidence to finally, after 5 years, be my true self at work. And now I hope, in writing this blog, you too will make changes in your workplace. You never know who might be struggling with their identity.
What actions did Amba take?
Our CEO, Tobin Murphy-Coles, says, ‘’As a CEO and as a human being, my core belief is that everyone has a right to be who they truly are. To not live in fear that how they identify will both stigmatise them or slow their careers. Until every single colleague feels that sense of freedom our work cannot be seen as done.’
We’re ensuring all toilets are gender-neutral, replacing our gendered bathroom signs with an illustration of a toilet – after all, that’s all it is.
I had a fear that a client or new starter would spot me coming out of the toilets and think I had been in the wrong one for my gender, whatever they perceived that to be, and be upset with me. It’s a fear brought on by personal experience in public places and in the news where gender non-conforming people have been attacked for being in a toilet that the attacker thought was the wrong one.
Some businesses may have a reluctance to implement this, which could come from a fear of workplace relations occurring. Odds are, if people were brave enough to break workplace rules, a sign with a gendered stick figure on the door isn’t going to stop them.
We’re inserting an optional pronouns field into our email signatures next to our names. This will be a great step in destigmatising the conversation around pronouns, that will probably be seen as the norm in the future. And they will be set up and ready if Amba recruit any further gender non-conforming or trans people.
Pronouns are of huge importance to most non-binary and trans people. Not being mis-gendered is a huge deal when it comes to feeling accepted and supported by your workplace. Imagine coming into work and people start addressing you incorrectly; you’d feel alienated by the people you need to collaborate with.
To get someone’s pronouns right you need to know what they are. A helpful reminder is to have them in your email signature, or on LinkedIn. Even if you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth, having them there can show your solidarity and support for others.
3. Dress code
Although the dress code at Amba hasn’t been strict from the start, in 2019 our founder, Ian Rummels, implemented the “dress for your day” policy. We’ve always had a brilliant culture, and this played directly into the notion that, we’re all adults and can be trusted to act, and dress, appropriately.
When I first heard about some workplaces forcing their female employees to wear skirts and high heels, I felt so uncomfortable; I’ve never worn high heels and the idea that, in another business, I could have been made to wear them as a rule sounded awful.
Non-binary and trans people can experience something called ‘gender dysphoria’ (feeling of discomfort or distress), when wearing clothes that don’t align with their gender identity. This could make it harder for them to concentrate at work or not want to come in at all.
Allowing your employees to wear whatever makes them comfortable has a positive effect on their wellbeing. And probably your cisgender* employees too.”
Every business needs a safe space where people feel comfortable to truly be themselves, and supporting our LGBTQIA+ employees throughout the year is something that runs deep within our company culture.
This blog is part of a series of content we’re sharing with our network throughout Pride month to give the movement a boost at a time where it’s on everyone’s minds.
If you need help or would like to talk about how to support all employees at your company, we can help.
Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. “this new-found attention to the plight of black trans folks by primarily cisgender allies is timely and necessary”