Supporting Gender Identity in the Workplace

20th May 2021
This article was produced by Jane Griffiths, Employer Partner for Agile Nation 2 Business Programme.

Who am I? Personally, I am a white, married, straight, cis, working mother. Such a simple question yet often the answer is multi layered, intersectional and unique to me.

It is widely accepted that happy and engaged employees lead to higher productivity. Employees who feel connected to their workplace through common values and who can be authentic, in other words just be themselves, are more likely to stay and give of their best. But what of the people who still feel that they cannot be their true selves at work?

The Gender Identity Research and Education Organisation in the UK states that approximately 1% of any workforce may consider their identity in a way that does not fit the typical binary model of male or female. However, Stonewall UK says that over 50% of these workers choose to actively conceal their identity due to a fear of discrimination.

The last few years have witnessed a societal change with increasing understanding and acceptance that not everyone conforms to the notion of binary gender. High profile celebrities have ensured that the subject is at least discussed by mainstream media, but we need to challenge ourselves to consider whether this knowledge and acceptance has really translated into the workplace.

What is gender identity?

The World Health Organisation has noted that the concept of gender is a social construction which cannot be neatly divided into binary lines of a man and a woman. It then follows that a non-binary gender is one where the broad terms “man” and “woman” just don’t fit. Just as there are many different types of male and female so too are there many diverse experiences of being non-binary. This leads to the concept of gender identity which Stonewall defines as “a person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth”. Perhaps in simple terms gender identity is just a personal sense of who we are?

Key issues facing Trans and non-binary people

Trans or non-binary people face many challenges in society. Everyday life is often full of small incidents that reinforce the idea of binary gender. Having their gender incorrectly assumed or being addressed by the wrong pronoun are commonplace. Societal use of binary gender language and the requirement to tick either male or female on forms can make non-binary people feel as if they just don’t fit in. The prevalence of single gender spaces is another barrier to being able to equally participate in daily life. Layered on top of this are incidents of hate crime where over 40% of trans or non-binary people have experienced a hate crime in Wales in the last 12 months (Stonewall 2020).

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection from discrimination based on gender and specifically gender reassignment but despite this, research from 2017 (Fernandez et al. 2017) found that 57% of non-binary people felt that they were not protected in the workplace.

Why does it even matter?

With the rise of organisations with equality policies, inclusion statements and outward displays of support for the LGBT community we might be tempted to assume that working life has drastically improved for these minority groups. Yet the statistics of people who choose to conceal their true identity at work must tell us that stigma has not disappeared. To survive and thrive, organisations need to attract and retain dedicated and talented people. If an organisation can demonstrate an authentic culture of inclusivity, then all existing and potential employees will feel safe to give of their best.

What can a workplace do?

  • Critically review your Equality policy and state your values on inclusion and what this really means for you… Ensure that there is zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of anyone.
  • Review all your employment policies through a diversity and inclusion lens and check for cis normative assumptions to make every aspect of the working experience accessible for all
  • Question whether your organisation is truly aware of all legislation that affects non-binary people
  • Use gender neutral language where appropriate e.g., Chair not Chairman
  • Use gender inclusive language where appropriate e.g., women, men, non-binary people in place of women and men
  • Offer gender neutral facilities
  • Have non-binary gender and title options on any forms or records
  • Encourage an environment where every employee feels able to use the pronouns that are right for them. Including your own pronouns in your emails is an effective first step.
  • If you have a dress code, make sure it is inclusive
  • Find ways to eliminate any form of discrimination through using LGBT specialists to provide awareness training for all staff.
  • Consider how you empower your cis gender employees to become allies.

Leaders have a pivotal role in visibly and authentically committing to making an organisation truly inclusive. However, we all have a responsibility to continuously challenge and ask ourselves what we can do to make every colleague feel able to simply be themselves. Perhaps then we can all be part of the solution to a truly inclusive workplace where everyone is valued for simply being who they are.

Statistics on Trans and non-binary experiences from a Stonewall report from 2018

  • 2 in 5 young trans people have attempted suicide
  • 3 out of 4 young trans people have been bullied at school
  • 50% of trans people in Wales have experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months
  • 1 in 3 trans employees have been the target of negative comments in the workplace
  • 1 in 3 trans employees have felt excluded by co-workers
  • 1 in 6 have not been addressed by their correct name in the workplace
  • 1 in 3 nonbinary employees feel unable to wear work attire that reflects their gender expression
  • 24% of trans people have felt that they did not achieve a prometon due to their gender identity
  • 1 in 4 trans staff are not open with anyone in their workplace about their gender identity which rises to 2 in 5 of non-binary employees


Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), 2019,

Stonewall, 2018, LGBT in Britain-work report

World Health Organisation, Gender and Health, 2019,

Stonewall,2020, LGBT in Britain 2020, Stonewall.pdf (

Gibson, S, Fernandez J (2018), Gender Diversity and Non-Binary Inclusion in the Workplace, London, Jessica Kingsbury Publishers