By Dr Luke Fletcher, Associate Professor, University of Bath School of Management.
Inclusion and diversity is an increasingly important area within people management practice, and the CIPD’s People Profession 2030 report also highlights this will continue to be a key driver of change in the future. One area that organisations focus on is LGBT inclusion This general grouping of LGBT refers to those who are either not heterosexual (i.e., a sexual orientation other than straight) and/or not cisgender (i.e., a gender identity that is not the exact same as the one given by birth). LGBT therefore includes a wide array of alternative gender identities (e.g., non-binary) and sexual orientations (e.g., queer) that are not within the acronym itself.
However, by categorising sexual orientation and gender identity within the same umbrella grouping, important nuances in experiences and challenges related to gender identity tend to get missed. Those who are transgender (referred to as ‘trans’) or non-binary tend not to have as strong a voice and tend to be marginalised more in the workplace. This is recognised in the CIPD report I co-authored, Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives , which explores the experiences and perceptions of trans and non-binary workers in the UK separately from those related to sexual orientation. In this blog I highlight some key findings and offer some starting recommendations for people professionals to think about.
The challenges surrounding being open about being trans or non-binary in the workplace
Although 39% of trans and non-binary workers stated they are open to most people at work, the report also found that over a quarter of trans and non-binary workers are not open at all about their gender identity in the workplace. The figures suggest that many find disclosing and being open about their gender identity in the workplace difficult and challenging. Non-binary workers are particularly less likely to be open about their gender identity. The research suggests those who are more open about their gender identity at work are more likely to feel a sense of affiliation and pride about being trans or non-binary, and be their authentic and full self at work.
What might be preventing trans and non-binary people from being open and authentic at work?
The research suggests that workplace conflict is potentially much higher for trans and non-binary workers compared with heterosexual, cisgender counterparts - 55% of trans and non-binary respondents had experienced a conflict at work over a period of 12 months compared with 29% of heterosexual/cisgender counterparts, with the most common being related to feeling undermined and humiliated at work. Moreover, most conflicts were reported as not being resolved - between 40% to 80% depending on the type of conflict. This may explain why many trans and non-binary workers do not feel psychologically safe at work. – only 35% reported high levels of psychological safety.
The research also finds that active support and allyship from colleagues may be perceived as lacking by trans and non-binary workers even though heterosexual, cisgender workers may report that they want to be allies to trans and non-binary colleagues. For example, 89% of heterosexual, cisgender workers surveyed report that they would stand up for a trans worker if they faced a conflict at work, but just over half of trans and non-binary respondents state they feel that their heterosexual, cisgender colleagues would stand up for them. In addition, there may be a discrepancy related to what people professionals are putting in place at a more strategic level. Trans and non-binary workers tend to perceive that their workplaces aren’t putting in place adequate policies and practices that help protect, support, and nurture different forms of gender identities and expressions. For example, only 30% agreed that they thought their organisation provided adequate inclusion and diversity training that included gender/trans identity.
What support can people professionals and organisations put in place?
There are no magic bullets and or quick fix solutions for trans inclusion, as the issues at play are complex. However, the report acknowledges that people professionals may not be sure where to start when it comes to trans and non-binary inclusion. Therefore, here are some general do and don’t tips, based on this research, along with some links to some extra guidance at the end, which you may find useful.
This blog is the second in a series that will explore the key issues and recommendations for people professions from the report Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives.
For more resources and information regarding gender identities and terminology please visit:
Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.
Subscribe to the CIPD Newsletter