18 Nov 22
How data decisions leave trans people behind
Ash Pearce

I’m a new starter at Rockborne, which means I’ve just escaped the brutal process of applying for job after job after job. Not one of the companies I applied to knew I was trans.

For many forward-thinking companies, hiring candidates from historically marginalised communities is a great way of improving the difficulties those people face in gaining employment. A diverse workforce is always an asset to a company, as new ideas and ways of thinking give unique insights that make the whole team stronger. However, when it comes to transgender representation, the way companies collect data from their applicants makes this almost impossible. 

This week is transgender awareness week, and even in 2022, trans people still find it harder to get interviews and promotions than their cisgender colleagues. This means trans people are a lot poorer on average, despite the fact they often face massive medical and transition-related costs that others don’t. This is a problem, but how is data classification making this worse? 

Well, when you fill out online forms about yourself, you usually have to tick a box saying male or female. Most times, that’s all there is. This means non-binary or other gender minorities have no choice at all and have to misgender themselves before they even get a foot in the door. But for trans people who do identify as male or female, there’s still no way of saying they are actually trans and no way for the companies who want to hire them to know which of their candidates fit into this category. 

This is important for Rockborne to think about if we start to collect similar data on potential recruits. If we are serious about hiring from diverse backgrounds, we need to go beyond the usual data categories and include an additional one to show this. Something like “is your gender the same as what you were assigned at birth?” would be a great way of making sure we are interviewing trans people and showing that we are an inclusive workplace. Coupled with extra gender options like ‘non-binary’ and ‘prefer not to say’, we would allow candidates to fully inform us of who they are, without forcing them to disclose their gender at all.  

But why should we be the ones to do it? 

Rockborne is in a unique position to make waves through the entire data industry. Getting into data can be tough, but the data training course lets complete newbies go from 0 to 100 in a matter of weeks. We’re already shaking things up by providing training to more women, people outside of STEM, and people from a huge range of backgrounds, than what you might see in other data consultancies. 

But for most companies, one simple decision when their application forms were written has meant a whole group of people has been overlooked. There is no conclusive data on how many people in the UK are trans, but estimates range from 0.5%-2%. If 2% of our potential applicants were put off by our application form while our competitors caught up, this could mean the company misses out on some great talent. 

Now this change would not come without its risks – one study found that transgender men applying for jobs were perceived to be more likely to take parental leave than cisgender men, so this metric could bring bias of its own. There is also a perception that trans people might be ‘difficult’ if they feel the workplace is already intolerant. 

But at Rockborne, this is not likely to be the case – we live our values, and I can speak from experience that we have an incredibly friendly and welcoming team for trans people.  

So let’s be the change we want to see, and begin encouraging inclusive data categorisation, starting with the data we collect ourselves! 

Find out more about the Rockborne graduate programme here.

 

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