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Inclusive Cultures vs Marital Status Titles

What place do marital status titles have in a world striving for inclusive cultures?

This week, I received a link to complete a compulsory ‘Unconcious Bias’ training programme.

The slow end to lockdown has meant a bit of a diary crunch in all areas of life, but I told myself off for daring to think I know enough about this subject, and vowed to focus on the fact that there (surely) would be hidden nuggets of information which could prove my ‘marital status title point’ – ?

Of course it’s obvious to me that organisations on an E,D & I journey should be offering marital title freedom to their customers and people, but so many onboarding systems still make title declarations mandatory, and businesses remain stumped on finding practical solutions.

Is this a purposeful decision to exclude non-binary people and label women? Or simply a result of the limitations of the English language?

If we removed titles, what would we replace them with in order to remain polite and formal?

I opened up the training link with an open mind, willing to learn and ready for the ‘nuggets’.

What I saw was a very fine explanation of why employers really need to work hard at turning great policies into truly inclusive cultures.

The human brain is hard wired to categorise. Our bodies send 11 million bits of information to our brains per second, and our primal little minds cannot cope with a thousand ‘if’ clauses.

This is why customer service staff use titles. It’s their way of being polite and putting us into categories which make life easier for them, for their products, and for their tech systems.

It’s the same reason why business to consumer conversations involve ‘sir’ and ‘madam’, and the same reason why typical images and assumptions form in our minds when speaking with a person, or being introduced to a new contact.

The training asked me to close my eyes… and imagine a Chief Executive of an organisation.

What was my go-to image do you think?

– A mid-fifties man with greying hair of course!

The human brain, (including my own, clearly), may still be primitive in many ways, however we have the ability to recognise when efforts to re-route some f this hard wiring need to be made.

As the most intelligent life forms on planet Earth, we have the power to consider, to correct, and to think kindly upon people who fight every day to be something better than an ‘if’ clause.

The week I received the training link, was the very same week that I completed a registration form which (right at the top of the form), demanded I chose from ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Ms’ and ‘Mr’, and then later down the form, gave an option for ‘I’d rather not say’ in the drop down box for gender. *Slow clap.

Organisations cannot achieve success with being truly inclusive when their forms and systems require categorisation beyond necessity.

Many banks offer bank cards with no title, however a title is still needed on the person’s account. Effectively saying, “You can tell people what you like about yourself, but we still need to put you into a category… for our own purposes”.

Where identity freedom is given with one hand, but taken with another, it makes a disappointing mockery of how far we have come, and shows how far we still have to go to make every person feel that they have a place at the table of society.

So were there any hidden nuggets in the training? Some points which further proved my point on marital status titles? – Plenty!

  • Needless categorisation leads to judgement and prejudice. Marital status titles restrict a gender fluid world. They are obstructive to changes in identity relating to marriage and gender.
  • Employers wanting to demonstrate their commitment to FREDIE need to get in touch with us for some of those ‘practical solutions’ regarding marital status titles.

We know that the ‘title free’ vision is not as easy as cutting out a drop down box.

  1. How can you identify the areas of your organisation which allow titles?
  2. What should you use instead?
  3. How can you lose titles, but stay polite and formal?
  4. How can you train your customer-facing/ people-facing/ comms team?

Happy May everybody – and remember to Go Title Free™

Stella Sutcliffe

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