Published 2 years ago.
About a 6 minute read.
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Creating truly gender-inclusive workplaces requires more than just including pronouns in email signatures. Reimagine Gender CEO Lisa Kenney explains why a broader understanding of gender is critical for leaders going forward and why getting to
know our own Gender Stories is the first step.
As socially conscious Gen Z — with their values-driven approach to everything
from shopping to job-seeking — become the largest cohort in the workforce, the
companies with which they engage are increasingly expected to share their
values, and walk their talk on topics such as
But in order to authentically reflect these values and connect with this growing
contingent of principled workers, companies must now consider new dimensions of
inclusivity. The nonprofit Reimagine Gender
helps companies to embrace a more expansive understanding of gender, in order to
create truly inclusive workplaces in which both employees and leadership can
feel free to achieve their full potential.
But to create a workplace free of the constraints of gender requires more than
just creating more inclusive policies or including pronouns in email signatures.
We caught up with CEO Lisa Kenney, ahead of her keynote next week at SB’21
San Diego, to
learn more about why a broader understanding of gender is critical for leaders
going forward and why getting to know our own Gender Stories is the first step.
Lisa Kenney: Gender is a deeply personal and complex topic. Millennials —
and Gen Z, in particular — understand this, and increasingly no longer see
gender as a binary. Companies operating with binary notions of gender must
commit to evolving and expanding their understanding of
if they want to stay competitive with customers and attract top
That means embracing the beautiful complexity of gender — instead of pretending
this is a fad that’s going to pass.
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To meaningfully evolve and create a workplace free of the constraints of gender
requires us to reimagine solutions beyond inclusive policies, changing internal
information systems, or including pronouns in email signatures. It’s about
understanding how gender is approached across the entire company — from market
research to customer experience to the products you sell — and how every
employee is affected by limited gender norms.
While gender is certainly complex, it doesn’t have to be confusing. At Reimagine
Gender, we help companies navigate this process — helping them gain literacy,
creating safe spaces for questions and opening their eyes to the business
implications, including for storytellers and marketers. Organizations that can
embrace an expansive understanding of gender will recognize the opportunity for
impact: a chance to authentically connect with the increasing number of
consumers and employees that no longer buy into outdated notions of gender.
As we’ll explore further during the keynote, embracing human complexity as it
relates to gender means going beyond simply adding the "other" binary gender in
marketing and advertising (e.g. showing men doing laundry) in order to reflect
gender diversity. Every day, we navigate our gender choices in the larger
context of who we are, which are impacted by different parts of our identity
beyond gender — including race/ethnicity, geography, social/economic background,
faith community, professional realm and personal characteristics. We are
constantly calculating a complex equation within ourselves that balances and
honors the complexities of who we are, while still caring for ourselves in the
context of societal expectations.
LK: We should start by acknowledging that everyone experiences, understands
and is impacted by gender. This means that we all have our own unique Gender
Story. At Reimagine Gender, we describe a Gender Story as the set of messages,
experiences and interactions that ultimately shape the lens through which each
of us sees gender in our personal and professional lives. By taking the time to
unpack and understand our own Gender Stories, we familiarize ourselves with how
society’s socializing of gender can influence how we carry ourselves, show up in
personal and professional relationships, and choose to present to the world.
Understandably, getting to know your own Gender Story is a lifelong journey and
it can be confusing to know where to start. For those who are starting this
journey, we've developed a few initial
to get grounded in your gender story.
As you sit with these questions, we recommend writing your answers down and
sharing them with those you trust to inspire more conversation and understand
how others perceive their own Gender Story.
LK: For leaders, doing the foundational work of first understanding your own
Gender Story can help you cultivate the empathy and understanding needed to
meaningfully support people and address gender within your organization. Once
you have a better understanding of how gender has shaped your professional and
personal life, you can understand the range of ways that your employees may also
have been affected in their own lives — and the impact this can have on the
choices they make at work and the dynamics that can play out in any group. You
will also be better able to see how assumptions about gender impacts your
organization through things like human resource-related policies and practices,
product development and marketing
and even how teams collaborate. Understanding your gender story is the first
step in reimagining a workplace that frees all employees from limited
understandings of gender. This kind of freedom will unlock new ideas and
innovation, and create a space where all employees feel empowered to show up as
their full, authentic
LK: We all have a gender lens created from the gendered messages,
experiences and interactions we’ve gathered over our lifetime. It informs how we
see and interpret gender for ourselves and others. When we engage with those
messages intentionally by examining our gender story, we not only see and
understand our gender more clearly, but we also bring a more expansive lens to
our work lives, and we come closer to creating an environment unchained from
narrow gender norms. This gender lens helps us see how gender impacts our
people, processes and systems often in surprising ways and allows us to ensure
that we are building equity for people of all genders in our organizations. The
gendered messages we’ve received
over our lifetimes may influence us to reinforce harmful stereotypes or
norms. Applying a gender lens to
our work lives inspires us to reimagine services and offerings free of gendered
limitations that empower people — including both customers and employees — to
show up as their true, authentic selves.
Published Oct 15, 2021 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST