Podcast #204

Jackie Handy: Inclusion and Diversity in the workplace

“Whether you are a heterosexual male or heterosexual female, we all have a level of maleness and femaleness within us. And so, it is almost a continuum if you like. So hence, you might get a heterosexual male who has some feminine traits and qualities. In the same way, you might have a female who, who is also heterosexual, you have some male qualities or characteristics. So, I think sex is very binary. Gender is absolutely not.” (7:22)

Jackie Handy

Jackie Handy specialises in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and its alignment with inclusive leadership. She has first-hand experience and knows the hurt that exclusion brings. Now Jackie encourages leaders and team managers to become more consciously inclusive through thinking and acting differently. This leads to a workforce who are true to themselves, motivated and successful, a diverse talent pipeline, as well as becoming a trusted and respected brand to your external stakeholders.

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One thing that stood out for me is that Jackie said how often she feels she’s preaching to the converted. The people who turn up for talks on inclusion are people who are willing to spend an hour of their time on such things, it’s not the people who don’t care and want to be persuaded. Someone like JK Rowling has been publicly shamed for some of her comments, but that doesn’t appear to have altered her thinking. Jackie said it’s a brave thing to do to bring people in who question us. Trust is going to take time to build on both sides, so a sense of perspective to the scale of the problem is going to be really valuable. I hope trust is built properly, with mutual understanding, and not through fear of public shaming if somebody says the wrong thing.

Podcast Notes

Jackie Handy is a TEDx talk speaker, who spoke about The exclusive nature of Inclusion, and the author of The little book of belonging – your weekly guide to inclusive habits.  Having a passion for learning and growth, Jackie became a leading figure in promoting, Inclusion and Diversity in the workplace.  Jackie firmly believes that promoting Inclusion, and diversity in the workplace can greatly benefit any industry as it can provide multiple perspectives.

Society and people evolve, and with it comes continuous change within the workplace and ourselves. For many, change can be intimidating, and they are not always fully aware of how to address change.  Sometimes we find it difficult to find the right phrasing for certain topics, as we do not want to come across as offensive or inappropriate.  This can lead to a complete avoidance of sensitive topics.

In the case of Inclusion in a workplace this is the next step in changing the workplace environment. It is also one that comes with an array of questions that want to be avoided but should not be. Jackie is here to help us answer some of the questions to make inclusion seem like less of an intimidating change. It all starts with a question many ask themselves, “What is the difference between sex and gender identity and expression?”

Differences between sex and gender identity

A person’s sex is first assigned to them when they are born based entirely on their genitalia, whereas gender is more focused on identity. Additionally, one of the major differences between gender and sex is: sex is binary (meaning two types), and gender can have more than two. With gender a person can feel male, female, both, or neither.  

Jackie explains that a person can be assigned the female or male sex at birth. This person is then held to specific societal roles based on their sex “Because of our societal norms, the sex assignment determines how you will be treated – how you will be dressed, the toys you will play with. Into adulthood, it can potentially determine the career path you will take or the lifestyle you will lead.”   

The change comes a bit later in life. However, there is not a set age that people can become aware of this change. Some experience it before puberty, and others experience it well into their adulthood.  This change is also based on how much we relate to these societal norms.

We all have various levels of masculinity or femininity within ourselves, regardless of sex.  As a result of these various levels of masculinity and femininity, we feel more connected with one, multiple or neither gender. This feeling leads to our gender identity, which can be similar or different from the sex we are assigned at birth.

That being said, with sexual orientation, as it is being more prominent in society, there are now more labels in society to be better identified.  What are some of these labels, and how do they affect the work environment?

Labels and the work environment

Cisgender and transgender

Some of the more commonly used labels are cisgender and transgender.  Cisgender refers to a person who identifies with their sex at birth. Jackie explains by saying, “I consider myself a cisgender female.  I was assigned female at birth, and my gender identity matches that.”

This differs from transgender, which refers to a person’s gender identity that is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Many people who are transgender experience body dysmorphia and go through different stages of transitioning their sex to better resemble their gender identity.  These stages can be dressing more like your gender or having various surgeries.

Multiple perspectives in the workplace

An interesting aspect for people who are transgender is that they experience the female and male perspective and experience the difference in treatment for men and women.  Many people who are transgender are able to provide a new perspective to the workplace as a result of their experiences.

Jackie explains further by saying, “it’s not just ‘let’s read a book and think about it,’ this is a lived experience, which is so incredibly valuable to any business. Whether that business appreciates it or not, there will be a percentage of their customers, stakeholders, and employees that may identify in these categories. This can be either now or in the future. Either way some may be in the process of transitioning their gender identity and sexual identity.”

Jackie is providing insight into what the future holds for changes in society as a whole, not just in the workplace. As we continue in life and discover who we are on an individual level, some clients or stakeholders of the business can be in the process of discovering that they are part of the transgender community. When that time comes it is better to have people on your team who can provide insight through lived experience. Having gone through transitioning or discovering it is not something that can be learnt by reading a book, it requires more than that, it needs a level of understanding from experience.

An additional topic that was discussed by Jackie regarding the workplace, is how the marketplace is experiencing a shortage of talent. In order to prevent this from affecting more businesses, Jackie provides a solution that can benefit a business in the long term.

Talent shortage

For the past few years, there has been a shortage of talent in the marketplace. Jackie explains that “the latest figures suggested that in the UK 600,000 people with disabilities are out of work and looking for work.” There are people within the market who want to work and who can bring something new to the table.

This shortage can be due to a number of different problems.  Often businesses look for people who already have experience and can easily get to work the moment they are there. Businesses no longer want to invest in their employees or offer them training. This is one of the major problems as the business is actively looking for previous experience, previously attained skills, and helpful historical data. With actively looking for these components, businesses are not looking at other areas that can benefit the business in the long run. Jackie discusses the various solutions a business can implement to make a difference in this area.  Being able to promote inclusivity in the workplace can be difficult in the beginning, but those early stages of discomfort benefit stakeholders in the future. Furthermore, getting past, this discomfort provides a more welcoming space for employees to share their various perspectives and experiences.

Podcast Timed Index

00:00 Introduction
02:16 Sex vs Gender
10:37 Trans in the Workplace
30:55 What next?
47:27 Mentality
53:11 Home Working
1:10:19 Conclusion

Get in touch with Jackie Handy
Articles, Books or Publications by Jackie Handy
More quotes from Jackie Handy
I know several people who identify as transgender, who have unquestionably said that what they found so interesting is, certainly in their business and their lives; they can both appreciate the male and female perspective. And they can also appreciate the way in which male and female treatment differs in business and in life.” (16:16)

“I'm not going to say that things are easy to do or implement and can get done immediately. We can start immediately but one of the first things would be to engage with somebody either internally or externally about creating a long term strategy.” (34:46)

“They're looking for previous experience and skills and historical data, which is helpful, but they're not also looking at potential. They're not looking at what they could do to invest in someone that didn't have all the skills but had some of the skills and qualities and characteristics required to succeed in whatever that role might be.” (38:53)

“What level of autonomy you can give to each person, what level of support is required, and where you can actually encourage collaboration across team members.” (1:05:17)

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