A Lack of Data Doesn’t Mean a Population Doesn’t Exist

I’m going to start with the conclusion:

Non-binary and gender-diverse people should be accounted for in your organization’s data. By working with your internal experts – employee resource groups, DE&I team, Talent Attraction and Legal – or calling in external experts, you can develop optional demographic questions that satisfy federal EEO-1 report requirements, provide candidates with a better application experience and develop more robust (anonymous and aggregated) data about the populations who are applying for your roles.*

Why does this matter?

Current EEOC gender questions ask job applicants to select “male,” “female” or “decline to self-identify.” Because non-binary individuals don’t identify as male or female, there are candidate demographics not being captured. This may seem insignificant, but having non-binary gender as an option means recognition. When it comes to candidate experience, both of those are hugely valuable – especially when looking at the candidate pool. A 2021 Williams Institute study estimates approximately 1.2 million adults in the U.S. identify as non-binary. In 2020, 56% of American Gen Zers knew someone who uses neutral pronouns. And, to top it off, values and commitment to DE&I can – and do – impact how candidates evaluate potential employers. Demographic questions on your organization’s job applications are an opportunity to make a good first impression. And one more thing: diverse teams have better business returns.

To recap:

  • Non-binary individuals should be accounted for in your organization’s data and should have the option to self-identify when applying.
  • Candidate populations in the U.S. are becoming more diverse each year.
  • DE&I is a priority for candidates when evaluating potential employers, and a non-binary gender option is a simple way to make candidates feel welcome during the application process. (Adding a spot for pronouns, then respecting those, is another win!)
  • Non-homogenous teams have better business returns when compared to their industry benchmarks, so why not improve the candidate experience?

What is the EEOC?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agency is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Each time you apply to a job in the U.S and are asked to fill out voluntary demographic questions, those are for EEOC reporting purposes.

This data is anonymously collected and annually reported in aggregate through the annual EEO-1 form, which asks for information from the previous year about the number of employees who worked for the business, sorted by job category, race, ethnicity and gender. But the EEOC can’t just require employers to start collecting new information in annual EEO-1 reports. Revising the form is a lengthy process but, as discussed above, that doesn’t mean your organization is stuck waiting for an updated EEO-1 form.**

*See this SHRM post and linked resources if your organization wishes to report non-binary gender data.

** On March 31, 2022, the EEOC announced they will be adding non-binary gender options to the discrimination charge intake process following the CDC and NCHS’s proposed definition of the non-binary gender marker X to promote both privacy and inclusion. This is an excellent step forward. To quote EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows:

“To advance our mission to prevent and remedy employment discrimination, we must serve all workers, including those who do not identify as male or female. Our public-facing forms should make clear that we respect that diversity.”

Landon Marchant ’20 is the Global Talent Attraction Analyst for ZX Ventures, the global investment and innovation group of AB InBev, the world’s leading brewer. In addition, they have been appointed as a research assistant at the U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs for a qualitative study to understand LGBTQ patient experiences and improve methods for patient/provider interaction. Landon is also currently serving as a Fellow with Minority Veterans of America, where their volunteer work primarily focuses on economic justice and employment. Before matriculating at Williams, Landon was a skilled trades apprentice with the United Association and served in the U.S. Air Force. Follow Landon on LinkedIn and Twitter. The original version of this article was posted on LinkedIn in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2022.