Posted by Judd Lowe ● Dec 3, 2019 9:30:00 AM

The Importance of Creating a Gender Inclusive Workforce

In recent years, "gender inclusivity" has come to take on new meaning - is your HR department adapting to fit?

Gender InclusivityIn previous decades, gender inclusivity referred almost exclusively to creating opportunities for women in the workplace.  By many metrics, this is still an ongoing struggle - by recent studies, women still only hold around 21% of executive roles.  However, gender inclusivity has evolved into a more complex HR responsibility. 

The recent empowerment of the trans community as well as non-binary employees, who otherwise do not conform to typical gender roles or appearances, have had companies adapt their HR policies and even infrastructure to accommodate and support this new influx of employees. Millennials and those under 40 years old account for a solid bulk of the workforce and champion on behalf of the LGBT+ community. As this number increases, the expectation, or rather norm, will be a high level of gender acceptance and inclusivity in the workplace.

Why Gender Inclusivity Matters In HR

Let’s take a step back for a minute and remind ourselves why the evolution of a diverse workforce is imperative to a business thriving. Multiple studies have concluded that having a highly diverse workforce is simply more productive and profitable than a monoculture.  For example, diverse teams outperform monocultures by 35%, and gender-equal teams earn 41% higher revenue.

This should not be surprising.  The natural world is full of examples supporting this idea.  Monocultures are vulnerable to disruption, such as the many times banana crops have been wiped out by viruses.   On the other hand, highly diverse species and ecosystems flourish, because they have more resources at their disposal.  They have more tools in the toolbox, so to speak.   The same is true of business ecosystems.

So, while on the surface the drive towards inclusivity seems to be "political correctness," it is in fact, more involved. It’s part of a sociological progression that should be supported in order to advance.  Companies which embrace tolerance and inclusive hiring practices are highly likely to be rewarded for this in both recognition but moreover in productivity and success.

On the other hand, those that continue to reject inclusive practices will be facing a dual threat:  Public disapproval, combined with an ever-increasing likelihood of lawsuits.  Plus, as of late, there is currently a case being considered by the Supreme Court which may officially declare LGBT+ people to be a protected class under gender discrimination laws. While the outcome of that case is still unclear (it won't be decided until summer 2020)  even without overt legal protections, the public mood is increasingly siding with LGBT+ people, and against those who oppress them. And, in today’s society where viral media and influencers prevail. public perception can make, or easily break, business intentions.

Encouraging Gender Inclusivity Within Your Workplace

There's no best practices or handbook yet per say for HR departments who wish to encourage more diversity in their hiring practices.  However, there are numerous suggestions for those who want to get started.

  • Get upper management on your side.  One of the biggest sources of pressure against greater diversity is from high-level execs, who tend to be of a previous generation and a bit more conservative. 

  • Set clear and unambiguous workplace policies against harassment based on gender or sexuality.  Even without overt gender discrimination protection, LGBT+ employees are still protected from hostile workplace environments. Company handbooks may reference policies discrimination policies that protect people no matter their race or sexual preference, though the term “preference” may ultimately be changed to “orientation” to further protect this segment of the workforce.

  • Hold seminars and training sessions in the workplace.  Again, these should not be focused on the political aspect of LGBT+ rights, but rather on the pragmatic benefits of inclusion.

  • Consider implementing "blind" candidate review or interview policies that reduce their sexuality or gender as a hiring decision as much as possible.  For example, strip resumes of candidates' names and other gender-identifying elements so they can be judged solely on merit when selecting callbacks.

  • Add features that would be attractive to non-binary workers, such as gender-neutral bathrooms.

While still in its infancy in the workplace, we’ve seen gender inclusivity in reference to this new segment of workforce come a long way in a short period of time. And this is expected to increase over the next few years. It behooves HR departments to revisit corporate policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant and supportive of all employees.

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