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How to create a gender-inclusive workplace

How to create a gender-inclusive workplace

Gender inclusivity goes beyond equality — it's a vital aspect of a company’s culture that significantly benefits both employees and employers. It encompasses more than just addressing male-female dynamics. A truly gender-inclusive workplace is one where every employee, regardless of their gender identity or expression, feels valued, respected, and empowered. This commitment also extends to proactive measures for LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace, ensuring that all community members are supported equally.

Achieving this environment requires a proactive strategy, emphasizing the norm of hiring and promoting gender-diverse employees into leadership positions and career opportunities. Organizations that champion gender inclusivity reap the rewards of diverse perspectives, heightened innovation, and improved overall performance. By fostering gender diversity in the workplace, these organizations play a crucial role in advancing a culture of acceptance and actively working to diminish discrimination.

Learning how to create a gender-inclusive workplace is crucial for supporting employee well-being. It allows you to build a supportive, productive environment where everyone — and your business — can thrive. Read on to learn more about gender-inclusive workplace environments, from how they look to how you can achieve them. 

What does a gender-inclusive workplace look like?

Gender inclusion in the workplace hinges on multiple factors that cultivate a positive and supportive environment, grounded in the principles of equality and respect.

A gender-inclusive workplace would have:

  • Clear policies and practices that eliminate discrimination and harassment based on general identity or expression.
  • Inclusive language in all formal and informal communications to avoid gendered assumptions — for example, using preferred pronouns and revising gendered job titles.
  • Diverse leadership that advocates and offers representation at all levels.
  • Training and education aimed at discussing the importance of gender, inclusivity, unconscious bias, and respect.
  • Supportive environments with resources and support systems readily available.
  • Flexible work policies that emphasize work-life balance by offering benefits like parental leave and flexible working hours.
  • Employee resource groups (ERGs) that support diversity and become a platform for advocacy.

14 Ways to promote gender inclusivity in the workplace

Although there is a compliance element, gender inclusivity goes beyond just adhering to anti-discrimination laws. It’s a way to recognize and celebrate your workforce’s diverse identities and experiences. 

The following strategies and practices can help ensure that everybody on your team — regardless of how they identify — has the tools they need to reach their full potential at work. It might seem daunting at first, but these 14 effective ways will help boost gender inclusivity in your organization.

1. Implement comprehensive anti-discrimination policies

Most organizations assume their policies discourage discrimination, but it isn’t easy to know for sure unless you look at them through a gender-inclusive lens. 

Establishing a firm anti-discrimination policy is the foundation of your inclusivity efforts. Research found that states with anti-discrimination laws in place have less community stigma toward gender-minority populations. Theoretically, this suggests your organization’s anti-discrimination policies can do double duty: protect people and reduce stigma. It’s a win-win. 

To be effective, policies must:

  • Explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression
  • Clearly define gender identity and expression
  • Outline clear procedures for reporting issues of discrimination or harassment 
  • Ensure confidentiality to encourage people to come forward, either for themselves or for others
  • Include training requirements to educate all employees and leadership on gender inclusivity
  • Offer specific examples of prohibited language and behaviors
  • Provide support resources for gender-minority populations

Additionally, regularly reviewing your policies is essential to ensure you’re meeting the needs of all employees. Offering surveys or soliciting feedback about policies can be a great way to better understand needs and gaps. 

2. Offer diversity, equity, and inclusion training

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can help you educate employees on topics like unconscious bias, the importance of gender inclusion, and how to create a supportive environment. These trainings can include how to best address gender bias and gender inequality in the workplace. For best results, though, training efforts must happen more than once. Research shows that multi-session DEI training resulted in “significant improvements” 85% of the time. 

3. Create gender-neutral restrooms

The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that gender-segregated restrooms are potentially inaccessible and unsafe to those who identify as transgender. Providing gender-neutral bathrooms ensures all employees have access to safe, comfortable facilities. This small accommodation can reduce stress and ensure a sense of inclusion and belonging across your workforce.

4. Use gender-neutral language in all company communications

Language plays a significant role in shaping corporate culture. While unintentional bias is often the culprit, there’s no arguing that offensive language can be damaging. Prioritizing gender-neutral language in all communications can make a big difference in your inclusivity endeavors. Similarly, promoting the use of gender-inclusive language, either by sharing pronouns or avoiding gendered language, can show meaningful efforts as a company. 

As you review communication for gender neutrality, pay close attention to things like:

  • Job descriptions
  • Emails
  • Official documents
  • Handbooks
  • Performance reviews
  • Avoiding gendered assumptions — use pronouns “they/them”
  • Avoiding gender-specific job titles — use “chairperson” instead of “chairman”

“A person’s mental health is affected in a negative way when there is continuous disrespect in the workplace. Chronic microaggressions can cause discord, anxiety, and even depression. Great relationships within the workplace are built on respect which is shown by acknowledging their pronouns.” - Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith LCSW DD

5. Establish equal pay and combat pay disparities

Offering equal pay is non-negotiable when trying to achieve inclusivity. The gender pay gap affects a variety of gender identities, such as female employees and transgender employees. The first step is completing a comprehensive pay audit to identify any discrepancies and immediately address them.

6. Support gender diversity in leadership and decision-making roles

A diverse workforce within leadership offers varied perspectives and experiences that can lead to innovative solutions, better decision-making, and a more inclusive workplace culture. Promoting inclusivity in leadership positions can combat harmful gender stereotypes and discourage discrimination.

Research shows that women leaders effectively improve businesses, and a new report by McKinsey & Company reveals that companies with diverse leadership teams not only excel financially but also have a greater probability of achieving "above-average" profitability.

7. Provide flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements — like remote options, flex schedules, and job-share opportunities — can be vital to the success of employees with diverse needs. For example, offering flexibility to employees with caregiving responsibilities can support work-life balance that improves inclusivity, mental well-being, and employee satisfaction. 

8. Ensure inclusive health benefits

Job seekers today are looking for more than just a paycheck. Stellar benefits packages that offer a wide range of health benefits, including access to mental healthcare, are more important than ever. 

An inclusive health plan could cover things like:

  • Reproductive health
  • Mental health services
  • Gender-affirming care
  • Gender-specific care
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Family planning services
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Talkspace is an online platform that makes mental healthcare accessible and convenient with online therapy for employees. With online appointments and experienced, licensed mental health professionals available, mental well-being is literally at your employees’ fingertips. 

9. Celebrate gender diversity through events and awareness campaigns

Openly celebrating gender diversity helps develop the culture of inclusivity you’re trying to create. DEI initiatives that raise awareness about gender issues are opportunities for employees to learn and create valuable contributions to a welcoming and inclusive company culture. 

Examples of campaigns and events you can host:

10. Encourage employee resource groups for gender diversity

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are exceptional spaces that allow employees to connect with and support each other in a safe environment. These groups can also offer valuable insights to leadership about the needs and concerns specific to gender-diverse populations.  

11. Regularly review and update HR policies and practices

Inclusivity policies and practices are not a set-it-and-forget-it deal. To stay relevant, they must be regularly reviewed. As your organization evolves, it’ll be important to identify and close any gaps you find. 

This might include:

  • Updating language in onboarding and performance review materials
  • Revising benefits to be more gender-inclusive
  • Creating or altering procedures
  • Focusing on education 

12. Provide mentorship programs focused on inclusivity

According to research, mentoring is an effective way to improve gender diversity in an organization. Mentorship programs can help gender-minority workers excel in confidence and feel empowered, connected, and inspired.  

13. Consider gender inclusivity in performance evaluations

When assessing employee performance, it's essential to incorporate gender inclusivity. Ensure that evaluation criteria are unbiased and equally applicable to all, regardless of gender identity or expression. By doing so, you foster a fair and equitable environment that recognizes and rewards merit accurately. This approach not only enhances morale but also drives a culture of inclusivity and respect within the workplace.

14. Educate on the importance of allyship in the workplace

Allyship involves actively supporting and advocating for any employee from an underrepresented group — including those with diverse gender identities or expressions. Allies can recognize and help dismantle systemic inequalities and barriers in the workplace. They can focus on listening, supporting, and advocating for their gender-diverse co-workers. 

Successful implementations of gender inclusivity in the workplace

Looking at and highlighting successful gender-inclusive initiatives can help you solicit buy-in from key organizational stakeholders. These people will, in turn, encourage others to adopt inclusive behaviors. The following examples showcase how other notable companies have implemented gender-inclusive policies.

Google

Google is known for its inclusion initiatives. It has comprehensive anti-discrimination policies, diversity training programs, employee resource groups (ERGs), and more. Google’s commitment to inclusivity is clear and admirable. 

IBM

A long-standing leader in promoting diversity and inclusivity, IBM offers “best-in-class” gender transition support, supports LGBTQIA+ resource groups, has gender-neutral restrooms, and utilizes inclusive design teams to create spaces where everyone feels they belong. 

Salesforce

Salesforce is an industry leader in gender inclusivity. Equal pay audits, gender-neutral bathrooms, and a commitment to diversity in leadership are just a few ways Salesforce shows its dedication to inclusivity. In fact, 32% of its global leadership identify as women or non-binary.   

Enhancing workplace culture with Talkspace

Adopting gender inclusivity in the workplace can significantly improve culture and morale across your organization. It helps create a thriving, productive, healthy environment where every team member feels valued and respected. 

Even if the idea of gender inclusion seems overwhelming, using the techniques shared here and offering additional resources and support is the first step you can take. Talkspace can be pivotal in your efforts, providing accessible mental health services tailored to your employees' diverse needs.

Integrating Talkspace into your healthcare benefits program is a way to provide invaluable support to gender-diverse populations and show your commitment to inclusivity and equality. Talkspace can transform your workplace culture — request a demo today to learn more.

Sources:

  1. Clark, Kristen D., Mitchell R. Lunn, Eliot M. Lev, Michael A. Trujillo, Micah E. Lubensky, Matthew R. Capriotti, Thomas J. Hoffmann, Juno Obedin-Maliver, and Annesa Flentje. 2022. “State-Level Policy Environments, Discrimination, and Victimization Among Sexual and Gender Minority People.” International Journal of Environmental  Research and Public Health/International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19 (16): 9916. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19169916
  2. Wang, Monica L, Alexis Gomes, Marielis Rosa, Phillipe Copeland, and Victor Jose Santana. 2023. “A Systematic Review of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Antiracism Training Studies: Findings and Future Directions.” Translational Behavioral Medicine 14 (3): 156–71. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibad061
  3. Https://Www.Apa.Org. 2023. “Proposed Talking Points to Support Local Universal Restroom Ordinances,” December 1, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/all-gender-restrooms
  4. Novotney, Amy. 2023. “Women Leaders Make Work Better. Here’s the Science Behind How to Promote Them.” Https://Www.Apa.Org, March 23, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/women-girls/female-leaders-make-work-better
  5. Dixon-Fyle, Sundiatu, Dame Vivian Hunt, Celia Huber, María Del Mar Martínez, Sara Prince, and Ashley Thomas. 2023. “Diversity Matters Even More: The Case for Holistic Impact.” McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-matters-even-more-the-case-for-holistic-impact
  6. Dimmock, Liz. 2017. “New UK Research: Mentoring Is Improving Gender Balance in Organisations — Moving Ahead.” Moving Ahead. September 7, 2017. https://www.women-ahead.org/press/turning-the-dial
  7. “Building a Sense of Belonging at Google and Beyond.” https://about.google/belonging/.
  8. Badgett. n.d. “Going Global with LGBT+ Inclusion Policies at IBM.” IBM. https://www.umass.edu/employmentequity/sites/default/files/IBM%20Global%20LGBT.pdf
  9. “IBM Workplace Design – Inclusive Design.” https://www.ibm.com/design/workplace/inclusive-design/
  10. “Equality - Salesforce.com.” Salesforce. https://www.salesforce.com/company/equality/

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