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#VUHRD Research Spotlight Series | Gender Non-Conformity in the Modern Workplace | Best practices f

In this last piece in the Research Spotlight Series on the "Gender non-conformity in the modern workplace" article by Dr. Sawyer & Dr. Thoroughgood, we are summarizing the authors' highlights for best practices for those in the field. These suggestions can help you as a practitioner develop inclusive practices and policies at your organization, and create an inclusive culture for all gender non-conforming employees.

Include specific policies surrounding discrimination

Ensure that you have developed policies that are specific to discrimination based on gender identity and expression. With these in place, employees will feel more comfortable knowing that there is a procedure in place to follow if they do experience discrimination or hostility at work (p. 3).

Schedule diversity training & a visit with a transgender trainer

Host diversity training at your organization, and be sure to include specific information about gender identity and expression at this workshop. Covering this area explicitly will help demonstrate to employees that it is an area of importance (pp. 3-4). Additionally, it is helpful to have a transgender trainer come to talk about the topic with employees; some employees have never interacted with someone who identifies as transgender or gender non-conforming, so this type of training can help create a personal connection and lessen any existing stigma (p. 5).

Differentiate between sexual orientation vs. gender expression

During diversity training, ensure that the trainer spends time differentiating between sexual orientation and gender expression. It's important for employees to understand that these are different identities, and may help to ease any stress about being unsure how to address their gender non-conforming coworkers (p. 3).

Allow freedom of bathroom access

While this topic has been met with much controversy in recent months, researchers have stated it is important for transgender individuals to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Additionally, this helps coworkers to truly see that individual as the gender with which they align (p. 4).

Create gender neutral dress code policies

By creating dress code policies that are gender neutral -- that is, articles of clothing are not categorized as "male" or "female," such as "Women are permitted to wear skirts that are at or below the knee," for example -- the metric is professionalism, and not gender conformity (p. 4). This will allow employees to dress in the way that allows them to express their identity, rather than feel constrained by gendered dress codes.

Provide benefits related to transitioning

It is advised that organizations provide benefits for transitioning transgender individuals so that their transition can be smooth. In some cases, employees fear telling employers about their transition surgery for fear of backlash. The goal here is to make sure that employees know that their organization is supportive of them as individuals.

Foster gender expression inclusivity across departments -- not just in HR

Ensure that your organization is promoting gender expression inclusivity throughout -- while HR can do an excellent job of navigating areas such as training and policy-making, we need not be the only departments who spearhead these initiatives. Bring other departments into the mix; for example, the Marketing department can brainstorm how to promote this inclusive culture externally (p. 5).


Sawyer, K. & Thoroughgood, C. (2017). Gender non-conformity and the modern workplace: New frontiers in understanding and promoting gender identity expression at work. Organizational Dynamics, 1-8.

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