5 ways to bring your gender inclusive language goals to life

Brilliant businesses will have best practice Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policies which will detail the organisation’s commitment to upholding an inclusive culture.

But how can an organisation bring these policies to life and make sure that the changes are seen and felt throughout their company culture? 

  1. Share accountability 

Gender inclusion is not just the responsibility of the HR department.

Making sure that customers feel respected is not solely the responsibility of your head of customer relations.

Removing the marital status title drop down box is not only about those responsible for your website removing the field and managing the data channels. 

Or the CRM Lead deciding what fields are necessary in your data channels.

Or the the E,D&I team who champion inclusion. 

You see where I’m going here don’t you?

The responsibility to create an inclusive culture sits with all of us. Each of us has a responsibility to learn about what welcomes people, and what creates division. 

Training on diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias needs to guide your people towards an understanding of this, so they each understand the part they need to play. 

2. Ask the thoughts of other people

Four years ago, at the start of the GoTitleFree campaign, I was angry because a business addressed me in a way that I felt gave me no authentic identity. They addressed me as ‘Mrs’, followed by my husband’s initial, followed by my married surname. – And THAT is when GoTitleFree began. 

At the time I wasn’t sure what the campaign would look like, but I knew I felt angry. And I was sure that other women would feel the same way. And the more I thought about titles, the more I knew how much of a problem they would be for non binary people. 

But guessing was not enough. I couldn’t speak for other people without being absolutely sure. I couldn’t challenge businesses when I had no proof that marital status titles were detrimental to everybody, including their own profit margins. 

Four years and 2000 survey respondents later I now know that 71% of people would be put off buying a product or service if they were addressed incorrectly. 

Know your people. 

Survey your customers and your employees and move with the needs of the business. 

Annual surveys don’t allow for much space for E,D&I. So run pulse surveys and use your company networks to find out what your people think about marital status titles. 

Regarding titles, does a longer list of titles on your registration pages feel better for you? 

Does adding a ‘blank’ option feel better? 

Or removing the data field all together?

3. Track the uptake of initiatives.

In all the benchmarking programmes I’ve seen, businesses fall down time and time again on the aspect of measurement. On the evidence they are gathering.

They’ve worked so hard to build great networks and embed inclusive practices, on enhancing policies, but then they fail to track the uptake of all these wonderful improvements through effective KPIs. 

How happy are your people with gender inclusive practices? How many of them use pronouns? What’s the uptake of non-mandatory training? What’s the tenure of people who represent protected characteristics and is it improving? What’s the success rate of a customer service team which tries gender inclusive language compared to a team not tasked with it?

There are so many gender inclusion ideas to weave into your strategies, but once they’re weaved in, there should be measurables created around each point.

Perhaps the sharing of the accountability mentioned above means that there will be a lot of people and departments involved in this measurement, but measure it you must. 

It’s the only way to futureproof your work, justify further budget and resources and continue progress

4. Identify your opportunities and your barriers.

What is truly stopping the organisation from progressing regarding gender inclusion? 

What opportunities are there for you to achieve what you want more effectively? 

Knowing what’s standing in your way gives you a fighting chance of getting around it! 

Is it lack of resources or budget? Maybe the long list of HR priorities in a suddenly hybrid world headed for recession has created too many competing priorities for the issue of marital status titles and gendered language to feel important?

Perhaps there’s a lack of understanding or buy-in from above? Or not enough evidence that marital status titles are a problem or that gender inclusive language will make a positive difference?

Maybe there’s a GDPR review due, creating the perfect opportunity to ask how the organisation can justify asking for this data?  

What can you use to your advantage? 

Perhaps there are bigger reviews or initiatives in the pipeline where a change to the way the organisation deals with gender inclusion can be a smaller part of a larger plan for improvement.

5. Celebrate

Despite what LinkedIn would have you believe, organisations are sometimes very reluctant to celebrate their progress with their people initiatives. 

Many of the organisations I’ve worked with have wished to keep their participation in benchmarking exercises on the downlow. 

I understand the hesitation. There are clashes of personality, probationaries which haven’t been passed, personal disputes, HR grievances and cases of whistleblowing in even the very best of businesses.  

Saying you’re ‘the best’ at something could indeed bring people who feel they’ve been wronged by the business in the past clambering to beg to differ. 

But celebrate your wins as much as possible, because you’re on a journey like every other organisation. 

You’re not saying you’re the best. You’re saying you’re committed to progress, from whatever position you’re in, towards whatever the future brings. 

The conversations about diversity and inclusion are changing all the time. Change with them and celebrate the success stories you have. 

GoTitleFree has a new survey which allows organisations to score themselves up to 70 points against 40 standards, and in doing so, build a business case for change. 

We wanted to create a way for businesses to move beyond policy, and demonstrate why having an inclusive culture is beneficial to everybody.

Stella Sutcliffe

There’s ony 4 weeks to go until our next online event on the 9th September at 3.30pm BST

‘Who is going ‘title free’?’ will cover case studies of organisations who’ve gone marital status title free… and some examples of when asking for ‘no title’ goes wrong.

Register here

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