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Navigating Gender Identity and Expression in the Hiring Process

job interview meeting two women meeting at a table in front of a window

Special thanks to the LGBT Center of Raleigh for their partnership on this blog.

Whether it relates to gender identity, ethnicity, or even neurodiversity, 67% of people say diversity is important when evaluating companies and job offers. According to the Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarking Survey from PwC, 74% of respondents in North America cited diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a stated value or priority area for their organization. Despite this progress, however, there remains a lot to be done to create truly diverse and open workplaces, particularly for the LGBTQ+ Community.

According to surveys, 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination, harassment or mistreatment. It should come as no surprise, then, that navigating the recruiting and hiring process as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be scary. Applicants may have a hard time knowing how, or if, to share personal information about themselves with hiring managers. They may be unsure of how accepting the office culture is and nervous to ask. With all these unknowns, the job search process becomes even more stressful.

The following are some tips to help LGBTQ+ job seekers navigate the process professionally, gracefully, and most importantly, authentically.

How to Share Your Pronouns

Two of the most personal identifiers an individual can have are often their name and their gender pronouns. Gender pronouns are used frequently in everyday conversation to refer to a person about whom someone is speaking – for example he, she, him, or hers. In addition to the binary gender pronouns (he/she) there are non-binary pronouns that individuals may choose to better represent their personal gender identity, such as they/them or zie/zir. Just as it would be disrespectful to call someone by the wrong name, it is disrespectful to use someone’s incorrect pronouns.

So how can you share your pronouns with potential employers during the application and interview process? First, make sure you are comfortable sharing. If you are, start with your resume and the job application itself. Some progressive companies are including an “other” option in addition to male and female when asking for gender on forms. Consider adding your pronouns after your name in your resume or after your signature on forms or in emails. When providing references, ask each reference to refer to you with your preferred pronouns in their letter or when discussing you.

If you are comfortable, feel free to share your pronouns right away when you introduce yourself, either over the phone or in person (“Hi, my name is ___. I use the pronouns they/them.”) “Offering your pronouns during introduction is just as important as offering your preferred name.  The more we get in the habit of doing this, the more normalized it will become, making it safer for those who do not use binary pronouns,” explained Kori Hennessey with the LGBT Center of Raleigh. However, some may prefer to wait for the interview phase of the process. This is a great option for those that want to get a sense of the company culture and how their prospective employer may react before sharing personal details. Some may even prefer to wait until after they have accepted an offer or started their new position to share their pronouns.

How to Ask About the Environment

Interviews are as much about you getting to know the company as it is about the company getting to know you. Part of that process is asking questions to make sure you will be supported and your needs will be met. This may include asking about things such as company policies against harassment and discrimination, diversity initiatives, benefits terminology and coverage, which philanthropic organizations they support, or even if there are gender-neutral restrooms in the office.

While each interview is different, a general recommendation would be to start with a broad, simpler question and narrow down from there. You might start by asking what philanthropic organizations or causes the company supports to determine if your values align. “Partner organizations and what businesses a company chooses to support will say a lot about how open minded and inclusive a place may be and how safe and respectful the employers will be to an LGBTQ+ employee,” Hennessey shared. 

As the process progresses and you become more comfortable, ask about company policies to make sure you are protected should the need ever arise. If you are curious about benefits coverage and how they may apply to your unique situation, save those questions for after you have received a job offer. Before accepting, make sure all your questions are answered and you feel comfortable joining your new team.

Additional Resources

In the Triangle and around the country, there are a number of resources that can help you along your job search journey.

Navigating the job search and hiring process is already difficult. For those that need to navigate the extra layer of gender identity and expression, it can be overwhelming.  These tips can serve as a helpful guide for making the process a little easier. For more information, reach out to your local LGBT Center or utilize the resources listed above.

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