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Redefining Gender in the Workplace, How to Embrace All Gender Identities

Probably like many of you reading this, I grew up thinking of gender in a binary: Men exist, women exist, and society is constantly telling me which ideas, skills, hobbies and even colors fall into the sexes.

The arts were the first thing I encountered that challenged this binary: I remember watching music videos of artists like Prince and David Bowie whose art and presentation seemed alien to me simply because they chose to wear makeup and clothes that challenged the traditional definition of “masculine.”

Then I met trans people in high school, who were not only teased, but ostracized completely by teachers and students. Some people would react by simply assuming they did not exist. And the same thing happens in the workplace today.

These are small steps that can move mountains. Although it’s important to note that learning pronouns and improved media representation is one thing, but creating a TRUE culture shift where all gender identities and sexualities are accepted, included, and embraced is a whole other step. But it’s a movement that I have confidence we’re moving towards rapidly, despite the political and societal setbacks.

And we should all be part of this movement. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because as a team member, leader, and colleague your engagement with gender identity will affect how everyone shows up.

The costs of a non gender inclusive work environment includes reducing employee engagement and productivity, limits to maintaining and attracting top talent, and alienating increasingly progressive stakeholders. And it doesn’t take a finance degree to identify that all of these consequences have a financial cost as well.

In a study, focused specifically on trans employees, Enrica Ruggs and her co-authors found that the presence of trans-supportive policies was positively related to participants’ openness about their identities and decreased experiences of discrimination at work.

In this blog, I’m going to outline some of the actionable ways your organization can truly create an environment that allows ALL OF YOUR TEAM to feel they can show up at work as their authentic themselves.

Redefining & Embracing The Gender Spectrum in the Workplace

As someone who’s grown up in the “gender revolution,” and worked with several companies from startup to corporate: I’ve seen how companies across industry have evolved and continue to evolve. I am outlining some ways organizations of all sizes can start normalizing the gender spectrum in the workplace through advocating, educating, and working as allies.


Advocating for more inclusive representation means starting a dialogue and taking proactive measures to build support for those who may identify as outside of the binary on your team. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start brainstorming ways you can advocate for your team:

  • Does your company recognize Pride month and Transgender day of visibility outside of just posting about it on social? And if so, is your team advocating for their rights and speaking about their community outside of those days as well?

A great way to start getting involved is to tap into local organizations and activities by setting up volunteer groups, raising funds, or planning to get involved in local celebrations or educational activities. 

  • If your company is larger, do you provide a network or community to discuss and educate about the LGBTQ+ community / gender identity in a safe space?

Even if the company isn’t big enough for a full blown Employee Resource Group (ERG), companies can start group chats or even 2 people teams that senior leadership supports to craft educational and engaging activities for the organization to participate in. No matter what this looks like for your company, the goal is to provide people of the LGBTQ+ community dedicated space or time to discuss what they want to discuss and have a trusted network to tap into.

  • Does your company have inclusive policies that address the gender spectrum?

It’s one thing to have an diversity and inclusion policy, but often the binary is so ingrained in our thinking that we may forget to ensure we are being inclusive around the following:

  • Dress Codes: Do you have a dress code for “women” and a dress code for “men?” It’s worth doing away with that language and creating a unified summary of what you expect in the workplace. Included Health has put together a great summary of how to do word a policy that’s inclusive.
  • Bathrooms: If you have a physical workspace with no gender neutral bathrooms, then indicate that it’s okay to use the bathroom you identify the most with. 
  • Pronouns and name usage: Many companies are now making it required to identify one’s pronouns and preferred name in the onboarding process and encourage the use of them in email signatures, zoom names, etc. It’s important to not make anyone outside the binary “othered” by only requiring them to set their pronouns. By requiring everyone to do it, it normalizes that many people identify outside the spectrum and better creates a culture of inclusion. 

Be prepared to support transitions: Transgender Law Center has put together a very digestable and informative policy guide concerning transgender people and some suggestions for an employee transition from one gender identity to another. To summarize, it’s important to be clear about the procedure both for the transitioning employee and the team at large as well as outline the logistics around restrooms, healthcare, privacy, official records, etc.


Intentionally setting aside resources and bringing in experts to educate regularly is a great way to continue to learn and evolve as an organization. There’s countless ways to implement LGTBQ+ / gender identity education in the workplace including tapping into the ERGs mentioned early, bringing in speakers from nonprofits, or curating fun resource packages for employees to access on-demand from all the great content that is already out there. There are two other aspects to education that I think are just as important, and each topic probably deserves a blog on its own but here are the “spark notes” for them: 

  • Data collection: To regularly develop the organization’s knowledge and culture around the LGTBQ+ community, it’s important to think about how data on the organization is collected, maintained, and verified. When it comes to gender identity and sexuality, allow team members to self identify the way they want and record and verify those stats. Data about your team is powerful and can help you dig deeper into how you can better support them.
  • Diversity training: Most companies require some sort of onboarding or training material, and I would say that many companies now have required diversity training as well. It’s important to mention gender identity outright in the diversity training, and highlight some aspects of your organization’s inclusive policies around pronouns, dress-code, etc. 



Acting as an ally as an organization means planning for the long-term and maintaining a mindset that serves the LGBTQ+ community in addition to those that may present or identify outside of the gender binary is a journey. Always be open to learning and evolving. Some tangible ways to act as an ally are to:

  • Formalize an action plan against prejudice – In short, those who break policies or who make people feel unsafe or judged need to face consequences. This looks different for every organization but it’s important to act proactively and not reactively by formalizing the steps when/if something occurs or is reported.
  • Empower cisgender colleagues to become allies by walking the talk at the top – When it comes to creating an inclusive culture, work from the top-down is nearly essential. As a manager or executive, don’t be afraid to speak against the binary directly. Don’t shy away from topics just because they can seem complex. At the end of the day, it’s about seeking to understand and respect everyone for who they are. 


The Future Workplace (And World) is Gender Fluid

While the gender binary is something society has made up, embracing it as a whole is relatively new. It’s important to have patience with yourself and patience with others who are acting empathetically to learn behaviors and thinking patterns against the binary. I personally catch myself making assumptions, but afterwards I’m at least aware that I just said something that enforced the binary, and I can reflect and adapt. If you do happen to mispronoun someone, for example, it’s okay. Most of the time the person is incredibly understanding as long as you’re aware, apologize and actively work to correct it. 

An important note here is this blog has mostly focused on behavior in the workplace, but the real work starts much earlier and doesn’t end in the workplace. 

The future is fluid – gender fluid. And it’s an exciting time for all of us because advocating for the rights of trans people, those who present outside of the binary, LGBTQ+ people and beyond is fighting for the fundamental right for someone to be who they are truly meant to me. It’s fighting for the right to wear what you want to wear and expand expression beyond limitation. It’s fighting for art and creativity. And it’s just getting started.

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