Celebrating International Non-Binary Person’s Day 2023

In 2021, St. Modwen invited Bianca Hermansen, Head of Workplace Experience Design at Danish company SIGNAL, to come and talk about the importance of workplaces understanding what it means if a person is non-binary and to help us understand a bit more about this topic, as well as raising the profile of this protected characteristic.

To mark International Non-Binary Person’s Day today (14th July), we invited Bianca back to examine what has changed in the workplace in those two years and what they expect in the near future.

Watch the full video above or read the transcript below.

It’s been a couple of years since we at St. Modwen last touched base with you. How do you think the world of work has changed in those in those last two years in terms of accepting the individual differences of people within the workforce?

Well, I would say that there is this generational shift happening right now and world of work in fact changing. We have Gen-Z rapidly entering the global workforce, right? What we find is that up to one in four of Gen-Z identifies as LGBT+, which means that effectively one in four of your future colleagues are going to identify as something other than straight. So for some people, that means their romantic relationships, and for others it means their genders, right? But I think now is the time to step up and create inclusive infrastructure such as policies, benefits, parental leave – making sure they’re equal benefits. That goes for creating an inclusive culture too, including things such as language pronouns. The time for that is now, not in five years – we see the change coming.

Sometimes I talk about this friendly tsunami that is building on the horizon – you’re either going to get caught in the slipstream of that, or you’re going to surf it. So I would definitely say now is the time to step up your game and ride that wave like a pro.

You mentioned those rising numbers of young people who are starting to enter the workforce – do you think that it’s now easier for people to openly discuss their preferences in the workplace because there are more role models or prominent people within organisations who would identify as LGBTQ+?

It’s definitely easier now, but then we also have this wonderful dilemma happening right now. I’m Gen X myself, so I was a young kid in the 80s when times were different and we couldn’t identify as anything else because there wasn’t the vocabulary to express the identity range we have today – so it’s definitely easier.

But what’s happening then is that you have the group of people who are embracing this whole identity shift in a way where we where we’re not all the same and we don’t fit into boxes, but there’s this widening of the boxes, or potentially escaping from the boxes, and then you have people who struggle with that. I think in the workplace, it’s important to recognise that you have both sides, right?

You have the people who are ready for the change and you have the people who are a little bit hesitant. So saying ‘Be Kind’ goes both ways, right? Be kind to people in terms of not showing your biases, don’t make assumptions, don’t be mean and don’t make jokes that aren’t funny. But at the same time, if someone doesn’t get your pronouns right, please be kind – it goes both ways.

Last week, for Pride Month, we had two speakers who delivered fantastic speeches as part of a panel and one of them actually said to us they found it easier to reveal their true identity at work rather than possibly at home in their personal life and found that their colleagues were more accepting than their families may have been. You also said something similar when you were with us last time about work being your safe place, why do you think that is?

I think it’s important to understand that for many people when they work in an inclusive organisation, that becomes their safe space. Either because you have cultural norms outside of work, you have family expectations, or maybe you live in a country where being an LGBTQ+ person is either illegal or just frowned upon or unsafe in some other capacity. So the power of corporate culture is where we make a collective agreement, kind of like a psychological contract with each other, where we say: “these are the values that we seek to protect and promote and within this space, you’re safe.” So in some cases we actually see that the workplace becomes this kind of embassy where people can seek refuge and find a place where they can be safe if the circumstances around their personal life don’t allow them to. This is important because make no mistake in this sense, corporate culture is super powerful and it is a super powerful change tool.

So I know we could talk about this all day, but let’s look forward to another two years from now. Hopefully you’ll be back with us again, giving us another really positive update – what would you hope to have seen change in that period in the next two years or so?

OK, I feel like sharing this – a couple of weeks back, a colleague told me this funny story. She was picking up her 12 year old kid from school and in the car on the way home, they were talking about how one of the teachers had told her the mum that another kid in the school, had come out as trans. So the Mum was like “So, hey, I hear that Alex is now going to be called Alexa, is that something you want to talk about?”. The kid said: “I don’t want to talk about that, Mum, don’t be weird!”

That was such a wonderful experience for the mum because all of a sudden she said she felt very old and felt very ‘unwoke’ but the kid had pointed out so clearly that there is no reason to talk about somebody else’s gender and basically said: “it’s not a thing, get over it!”. And that’s the future right there. So I’m very hopeful – Gen Z is my spirit animal because there are definitely changes coming, that’s what I anticipate we will see more of in the coming years.

Becky Cund, Head of People and Culture at St. Modwen, said:

“For me, the biggest takeaway from this discussion is the saying: ‘it’s not a thing, get over it’. Wouldn’t it be great where we got to a position in the near future where this was the response to every protected characteristic?”