Collecting Transgender-Inclusive Gender Data in Workplace and Other Surveys
For reporting purposes, employers tend to "over-ask" for demographic data such as age, gender and ethnicity. Particularly when asked for something related to work, the question of gender with seemingly simple "female" and "male" options can pose a challenge for transgender people, particularly those that are in the process of or are considering gender transition genders. Some may be concerned about how that data may be used or compared to personal records, or they may feel limited by the "female" or "male" options. When evaluating whether to ask employees about gender on non-essential forms, employers should consider:
- What is the business rationale for asking about gender on the particular form?
- How does asking for the data relate to your organization's overall diversity strategy?
- How will that data be used, protected and reported? What legal restrictions might there be on collection or storage of demographic data, in the U.S. or globally?
If the data is not essential, consider removing the question, make sure the question is clearly optional (particularly for online forms) or allow people to self-identify by asking an open-ended question.
LGBTQ Employee Self-Identification Programs
Employers committed to diversity and inclusion routinely invest in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community with initiatives related to in recruiting, retention, professional development or other employee satisfaction measurements. Many employers want to track the impact of those investments and adopt LGBTQ self-identification programs to gather important data on the composition of their workforce with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Employers generally capture employee demographic information in two ways: 1) in confidential employee records via Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS), and 2) through anonymous employee engagement surveys. Whether storing this information as part of the HRIS record or using it in a survey, employers should be sensitive to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees in how they request the information.
In addition, specifically for transgender and gender non-conforming employees, expand the options to allow employees to self-identify beyond the binary male/female. The question of gender with only “female” and “male” options can pose a challenge for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Many transgender and gender non-conforming people do not identity with either one of the simple binary gender designations, and some may feel limited by the “female” or “male” options.
Questions to ascertain sexual orientation and gender identity can be structured to allow anywhere from quite restrictive answers to quite open ones. Employers should evaluate how best to capture the data they need while allowing for a range of expression.
To maximize response rates over time, employers need to proactively communicate the purpose for the self-identification questions and emphasize the confidentiality of survey answers in order to address these concerns. One overall recommendation is to restate the company’s commitment to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression immediately prior to asking for self-identification and to clearly state the purpose of the question.
As with all sensitive and confidential data, employers asking about gender identity and sexual orientation should take care to protect how the data are used, stored and reported as well as consider any legal restrictions on data collection and storage here in the United States as well as globally.
In the end, the best way to allow for self-identification varies by company based on several variables such as: the purpose and use of the data, the perceived overall acceptance of LGBTQ employees, the company’s overall LGBTQ cultural competency, and the mode of self-identification (engagement surveys vs. applications vs. HR information systems).
Options for Gathering Data on Gender, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
Here are some examples of how to ask employees about their sexual orientation and gender identity in self-identification programs. These are a few of many options. The right choice for your company will depend on many factors such as the desired end use of the data, the company’s familiarity with LGBTQ inclusion issues and more. HRC’s Workplace Equality team is available to discuss self-ID programs with your firm. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Broad Self-Identification as LGBT
Our company does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and ensure we consider the needs of all our employees, please consider the following optional question:
Do you consider yourself a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT) community?
☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ No, but I identify as an Ally ☐ Prefer not to say
Specific: Gender & Transgender Status (ask together)
Our company does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and ensure we consider the needs of all our employees, please consider the following optional question:
What is your gender?
☐ Non-binary/ third gender
☐ Prefer to self-describe _________________
☐ Prefer not to say
Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Other identities considered to fall under this umbrella can include non-binary, gender fluid, and genderqueer – as well as many more.
Do you identify as transgender?
☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Prefer not to say
Specific: Sexual Orientation
Our company does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and ensure we consider the needs of all our employees, please consider the following optional question.
What is your Sexual Orientation?
☐ Gay or Lesbian
☐ Prefer to self-describe _________________
☐ Prefer not to say