Marital Status Titles – Are you a believer?

Where is the ‘agnostic’ or ‘atheist’ equivalent in the marital status title drop-down box?

The campaign to remove marital status titles often makes us reflect on where and how else we’re asked for sensitive information, and when exactly we’re allowed to ‘opt out’ when asked for details about ourselves, our status and our situation in life. 

When registering on a website, or applying for something, there are a surprisingly large number of ‘free text’ options to allow us complete freedom when stating our name, address and payment details.

Typing may create data channel nightmares for CRM people everywhere, but free text does allow us to be our true selves, and to choose the right way to be identified and referred to. 

In many of the drop-down boxes we’re asked to complete, there is often an option to tick ‘none’, ‘leave blank’, or bypass it altogether if the options given to choose from do not represent us. But sometimes we are left to choose options which are ‘sort of true’, in the absence of an accurate option to tick. 

When asked to provide details about our personality, living situation, beliefs and status, it’s common to see ‘prefer not to say’. (This is something we’re becoming more familiar with in the options we see for ‘gender’). 

One of the drop-down lists we can learn the most from is the list of options given by organisations for ‘Religion’. 

When asked to state a religious belief, we’re regularly given the option to tick ‘Agnostic’, which is the term for somebody who is not sure if God’s or deities exist, or where their beliefs sit most firmly. 

We’re often even given the option to say ‘Atheist’. – To state that our beliefs are against religion, and that we reject the notion of belief in deities. It’s the term for ‘non-belief’.

Unlike the way and order we see for the ‘Title’ field, the option for ‘No religion’ is very often at the top of the list of choices when the question is asked, making it much easier to see and select, followed by the standard list, usually containing:

  • Christian, (Including Church of England, Catholic, Protestant, Methodist and all other Christian denominations)
  • Buddhist
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Sikh

We’ve seen many examples in the ‘faith’ field where there’s even an additional option to state in free text; ‘any other religion please describe’, so that the Jainists, Brethrens, Scientologists and Jedis can be truly authentic with their choice. 

Looking at the statistics, 33% of Britons do not identify with any faith. The Office of National Statistics published recently that the number of non-religious people in the UK has also increased by 46% since 2011. 

Compare this to our research on marital status titles, revealing that 83% of people would prefer to have no title when registering or being spoken with by a customer service person, then we have a greater percentage of non-believers in marital status titles than we do non-believers in religion. 

‘Marriage and Civil Partnership’ is a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 in the same way that ‘Religious Beliefs’ are, and yet too often, we’re denied the same privilege with the marital status title options as we are with the boxes denoting religion and faith. 

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Equality Act, which was launched on the 1st October 2010, we will be building up our campaign to put pressure on the government to make amendments and additions to The Act which would see ‘marital status titles’ deemed as sensitive information. There are several suggested changes already being campaigned for if The Act was to be reviewed, and if a recognition of titles as a barrier to progress was to happen, then businesses would start to unpick these requests, and the address the constant unhelpful usage of gendered terms in customer service conversations.

A change to The Act recognising titles as sensitive information, in light of the fact that they are unequal in their representation of women and non-binary people, will hopefully initiate wider understanding about how titles don’t represent fairness.

Unfortunately, with a scaled back cabinet and nobody stepping into Liz Truss’s previous role of Women and Equalities minister, there is unlikely to be a standard bearer for positive change regarding the Equality Act in the very near future. 

The comparison in liberties afforded by registration forms was a sudden realisation earlier this week, when a supporter of the GoTitleFree campaign copied us into a Twitter demand for a tourist board to include more female titles in their registration options, (because they only included ‘Mrs’ and ‘Mr’, and nothing else to choose).

Someone responded to his request, copying in our campaign address as ‘woke nonsense’. When really, all we’re asking for is the option to tick ‘I prefer not to say’, ‘I don’t feel these options represent me’, or ‘I’m a non-believer in this’. 

We know that more people want the option to opt out of the marital status title information request. 83% of people according to our research. And we know that as far as marital status titles go, we’re as atheist as it gets!

Our research over the last four years has revealed that 71% of people would be put off buying a product or service if they were addresses incorrectly. And so the business case is clearly there to start leaving titles behind us, and for allowing a simpler more egalitarian life for everybody. 

Can organisations learn from these drop down options which offer more freedom?

Can they make allowances for people who ‘prefer not to say’, (and maybe start to understand that a person may want to actively and outwardly reject the options they’re given?)

Many people actually ‘prefer to say’, and what they want to say, is “no title”.

Stella Sutcliffe

Be a part of our active drive for positive change by signing the GoTitleFree petition, which encourages businesses to cease requesting, storing and using marital status titles with their customers and people. 

Download our Best Practice Guide which gives organisations top tips, checklists and case studies which can be used as the first step to exploring the business case for going ‘title free’. 

The Title Free Survey, is a three section benchmark, which scores businesses up to 70 points over 40 questions exploring how title free and gender inclusive you are. Businesses receive our personal recommendations for next steps. 

Employer members receive both of the above as part of their membership.

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