At #YesSheCan, we want to educate ourselves and our audience to become more diverse and inclusive.
As more and more organisations embrace diversity and inclusion to make their workplace a better and more welcoming place, people feel like they can be open about their identity – and they should be able to unapologetically!
In this blog, we have answered the question – “how can I make my non-binary colleagues feel comfortable?”
“What does non-binary mean?”
Non-binary is a term used by people who feel they don’t fit in the male or female definitions of gender. Non-binary is a gender identity which allows individuals to freely express themselves in any way they want or feel. This identity sits under the LGBTQ+ umbrella and has been recognised in non-Western cultures such as the Polynesian culture and in the Navajo Tribe.
As non-binary individuals don’t exclusively identify as male or female, they may not use ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him’ and instead will use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘they/them’.
“What is the workplace like for non-binary individuals now?”
Unfortunately, despite many of us being welcoming and accepting of our colleagues and friends regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, discrimination and bullying is something that affects many non-binary individuals. We’ve listed some statistics and research to give a better view of what it’s like to be non-binary in the workplace –
- 52% of non-binary individuals never felt comfortable or safe sharing their identity at workplace vs the much smaller 4% group who did.
- 55% are worried about the impact of their gender identity on career progression.
- 49% felt that inclusion and diversity training was inadequate in their workplace.
“How can I help my non-binary colleagues?”
1. Use Correct Pronouns & Gender-Inclusive Language
If you have been informed or told by your colleague that they are non-binary, they will most likely have told you their correct pronouns. If they haven’t, you can politely ask “What are your pronouns? I want to make sure I use the correct language when speaking to/about you” or alternatively tell them your pronouns first so they know you’re inclusive of all gender identities.
Pronouns that they use can change from day to day, so we would recommend using gender-inclusive pronouns of ‘them/they’.
Likewise, gender-inclusive language means words that are associated in the wider population with a certain gender. You should avoid and swap these words and phrases to ensure your colleagues are comfortable in conversations like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to ‘hello everyone/all’ and avoiding adding ‘-man’ to the end of positions and instead adding ‘-persons’.
2. Educate Yourself
If you clicked on this blog, then you’ve already made progress in this step!
Taking time to research online and educate yourself will be extremely helpful for yourself and your colleague will appreciate the effort. You could ask your colleague any questions specific to their own identity, but you shouldn’t see them as a walking encyclopaedia. Taking the weight of that responsibility and work from them and helping yourself will make the workplace for you and your peers a lot more positive.
3. Be Kind and Respectful
If a colleague has felt comfortable enough to open up to you and speak to you about their identity – welcome that! Tell them that you appreciate that they have told you as this can be a difficult part of their personal life to speak about. Make sure you are being respectful of any pronouns or anything else they want you to use when speaking to them. It isn’t your place to lecture a colleague, bring up politics or push your own opinion on them.
You shouldn’t worry too much either if you slip up and use the wrong pronouns or any other words in conversation with them. If you show respect and kindness most of the time, your colleague most likely won’t criticise you and instead will correct you and move on.
4. Be Aware of Other Colleagues Attitudes
As part as being as respectful and kind as you can to your colleague, you should be aware of any other colleagues or peers who go against this. As mentioned above, if yourself or other colleagues are trying to educate others in your workplace and they are still disrespecting your non-binary colleague, you should report it.
This can be difficult, but this is something that is sadly a regular occurrence for individuals like your colleague. Your organisation should have a clear grievances, disciplinary and discrimination policy in place for you and your colleagues to follow.