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Updated May 17, 2024

Have conditions improved in the workplace for nonbinary professionals?

Resumes with they/them pronouns were less likely to be considered a “good fit” when reviewed by hiring managers.

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Ryan McGonagill, Senior Advisor on Business Ownership
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Table of Contents

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One percent of American adults (about 2.5 million people) identify as nonbinary. That rate triples among those younger than 30, indicating that nonbinary employees comprise a growing workforce segment.

Our ground-breaking 2023 report found that job-seekers with nonbinary gender pronouns on their resumes were less likely to be contacted by employers. This year, we conducted a three-phase follow-up study to monitor progress regarding the acceptance of nonbinary professionals in the workplace:

  • First, we conducted a new experiment involving nearly 1,000 hiring managers to assess if there was any improvement in bias against nonbinary job-seekers. The experiment revealed that hiring managers were 8% less likely to consider applicants whose resumes contain they/them pronouns a “good fit” for a job.
  • Second, we asked nearly 450 nonbinary professionals about their experiences to see if there had been any improvement regarding their acceptance in the workplace. 1 in 4 said their nonbinary identity had negatively impacted their experiences at work, and 72% of nonbinary professionals still felt revealing their gender identity would harm them during a job search.
  • Third, we surveyed nearly 1,000 workers of all genders to determine whether job satisfaction differed. Overall, nonbinary professionals were 16% less likely than men and 8% less likely than women to be satisfied in their current roles.

Table of Contents:

What does it mean to be nonbinary?
According to the Human Rights Campaign, a nonbinary person “does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all nonbinary people do.” Nonbinary identification is generally considered a class

Hiring Bias Against Nonbinary Applicants Continues in 2024

To understand if bias still exists among workers who make hiring decisions, we invited nearly 1,000 people with hiring responsibilities to offer their feedback on a hypothetical applicant.  After showing the hiring managers a job description for an entry-level customer service role, we randomly showed them a version of the resume below. Then, we asked them to evaluate whether the applicant on the resume appeared qualified for the job description they reviewed (Read our full methodology here).

Nonbinary resume sample

Evaluators randomly received one of four fictional resumes featuring identical credentials under the same gender-ambiguous name. The only difference between the submissions was the presence of gender pronouns at the top of the resume. The control resume contained no pronouns; the test resumes had either he/him, she/her, or they/them pronouns beneath the name.

Last year’s experiment revealed that resumes with nonbinary (they/them) pronouns were deemed seven percent less qualified than those with identical resumes lacking pronouns. This year’s results were more encouraging regarding the assessment of credentials: all resumes were considered equally qualified for the job listing, regardless of whether pronouns were included.

Bias, however, still emerged in more subtle forms.

Despite being judged equally qualified, resumes with they/them pronouns were eight percent less likely to be deemed a “good fit” for our hypothetical job position. The feedback for the resume with they/them pronouns revealed the most significant polarization and concerns about professionalism and workplace fit. Such subjective assessments are particularly problematic, as they would prevent applicants from advancing in the process based on uncontestable perceptions rather than quantifiable merit.

Nonbinary resume stats

Further, when hiring managers offered personal comments about the presence of pronouns in general, they were negative 38 percent of the time. That negative rate rose to 75 percent for observations about the resume with they/them pronouns. Resumes with he/him or she/her pronouns were less controversial, but many hiring managers felt the addition of pronouns was unnecessary or “overly woke.”

Some respondents judged nonbinary applicants as “obnoxious,” “dramatic,” or “troublemakers” based solely on the inclusion of pronouns on resumes. When asked to elaborate, some hiring professionals offered insights like the following:

  • “The pronouns on the resume make me think this person may be a troublemaker and ‘woke’ versus more collaborative.” –  Woman, 38, Finance and Insurance industry.
  • “Listing pronouns at the top was an immediate turn-off. After seeing that, I could not view the rest of the resume without some bias.” – Woman, 38, Florida.
  • “On paper, they seem qualified, but listing pronouns at the top of the resume is unnecessary and rather eye-roll worthy. It makes them come off as unprofessional.” – woman, 42, Healthcare and Social Assistance field.
  • “I don’t know what the ‘they/them’ is supposed to mean. It could indicate that they are not of sound mind. Otherwise, the person seems qualified.” – Man, 52, College/University HR.

There is hope that this prejudice will age out of the HR field. Younger hiring managers, who were members of Gen Z, were 30 percent more likely than older generations to consider the nonbinary resume to be a good fit for the job description.

Nonbinary Workers Still Cautious About Revealing Gender Identity During Job Searches

Nonbinary workers view their gender identity as less of a hindrance in job hunting compared to one year ago. Yet, very few are confident in using gender-neutral pronouns during the application process. That may be the right instinct since bias existed when we sought qualitative feedback from hiring managers on a fictitious job applicant. However, the form of that discrimination has shifted since our original resume experiment last year.

Nonbinary resume stats

About 72 percent of nonbinary professionals believe that disclosing their gender identity in a job search would negatively impact their prospects. That number remains disturbingly high but is down from 83 percent last year. Additionally, those who felt their gender would “very much” hurt their search dropped by half (from 24 percent to 12 percent).

Percentage of nonbinary job seekers who would use gender-neutral pronouns at each stage of the application process
Job Board Profile34%
Email Correspondence33%
Pre-Interview Phone Call13%
Cover Letter12%

These concerns are reflected in nonbinary applicants’ reluctance to use their gender-neutral pronouns during the application process. Only one-third would consider using their pronouns on job boards or within emails, with far fewer willing to do so at other stages of the job search process.

Have Workplace Conditions Improved for Nonbinary Professionals?

Though bias exists in the hiring process, are nonbinary workers experiencing more acceptance on the job? America has made strides with LGBTQ+ rights, but progress is not always linear. In 2023 alone, legislators proposed a record number of new anti-LGBTQ+ laws across the nation.

In such an environment, it’s understandable that people might be reluctant to disclose that they’re nonbinary – especially in professional settings. Still, our new research found that many people share their identities: two-thirds of nonbinary workers currently identify as such in the workplace. Roughly one-half share their identities more selectively, while the other half openly identify as nonbinary.

Nonbinary ID in workplace graph

Despite this relative openness on the job, many nonbinary persons are more open about their gender identities outside the office. Significantly more nonbinary individuals use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them or zie/zer in their personal lives than in their professional capacities.

Nonbinary respondents described a wide range of workplace cultures and environmental challenges that influenced decisions regarding identity.

Among professionals who keep their nonbinary identity private, some work remotely and don’t feel the need to address that aspect of their lives with their colleagues. Others said their employers actively discouraged disclosure or encountered hostility and insensitivity from colleagues. One person told us, “I overheard hurtful transphobic comments by coworkers who didn’t know how I identify. I can’t really forget what was said and haven’t felt comfortable disclosing my identity since.”

Some openly identifying as nonbinary in the workplace had more encouraging and supportive colleagues. Many cited welcoming employers, colleagues, and corporate approaches that emboldened their decisions to disclose their gender identity. Some declared they openly identify as nonbinary at work to help change the environment and lobby for more inclusive policies. One study participant said, “Some colleagues are initially uncomfortable, but I present myself as a friendly, capable coworker, and 9 out of 10 times, that wins them over, and they learn to see past their discomfort.”

A familiar tale among selectively open nonbinary employees was the delicate process of identifying receptive colleagues. One nonbinary worker told us, “It’s an added stress determining safe coworkers to share information with. Sometimes, I choose to be vague if I’m unsure whether a person can be trusted.”

Most nonbinary workers feel supported by their peers and direct managers

Nonbinary employees who openly identify on the job receive the greatest support from those with whom they work most closely—three-quarters of nonbinary professionals felt supported by their colleagues and immediate supervisors.

Nonbinary support in the workplace graph

Clients and customers proved to be the least supportive groups for openly nonbinary workers. Less than half of nonbinary respondents felt supported by clients, and nearly as many felt actively unsupported. That may be attributable to clients’ limited interactions and a lack of accountability to workplace guidelines. Many nonbinary employees told us they reluctantly accept customers’ misgendering or occasionally gently correct it. One worker in our study explained their philosophy this way: “I deal with many clients who aren’t culturally aligned with non-traditional gender identities, and I slightly suppress myself when dealing with them. Sometimes, it’s important to meet people where they are,” they said.

Thankfully, the support from colleagues and supervisors appears to be improving the work experience among nonbinary professionals. The proportion of nonbinary employees who feel their identity negatively influences their work experience dropped by half in the last year. At the same time, the number of people who perceived a positive impact nearly doubled.

Nobinary influence graph

Despite these improvements, nonbinary workers still exhibit lower job satisfaction than their cisgender colleagues. Nonbinary employees felt less valued, less respected, and less rewarded than their gendered counterparts. Overall, nonbinary professionals registered job satisfaction levels 16 percent below men and 8 percent lower than women. However, nonbinary employees who were “out” at work demonstrated 11 percent higher satisfaction than those who remained closeted.

So, what are some of the most prevalent obstacles to open identity in the workplace, and how might they be best addressed?  The most consistent workplace concerns that NB respondents reported fell into these categories:

Misgendering and improper pronouns: Many nonbinary workers are regularly misgendered even after making their preferred pronouns known. Maintaining one’s identity and workplace polity can force a difficult choice between tolerance and assertiveness.

Cultural and social misunderstandings: Nonbinary professionals often cited workplace cultures that were unfriendly to non-traditional gender identities. Sometimes, the conflict stemmed from simple unfamiliarity, while other scenarios were more malicious and insensitive.

Facility and policy issues: Several respondents reported facing structural and logistical challenges at work, including limited bathroom options, non-inclusive HR procedures, outdated workplace traditions, or team assignments based on inappropriate gender designations.

Discrimination and job security: A recurring theme among nonbinary workers was concern about job security and potential discrimination. Some feared termination on discovery of their nonbinary status or for vigilantly asserting their identity.

Study participants also shared personal strategies for handling common challenges. The following approaches were mentioned most often, but each person should act according to their comfort level, safety, and convictions:

  • Disclosure management: Selectively disclosing one’s identity preserves personal comfort and mitigates risk. Expanding from carefully chosen confidants allows the gradual accumulation of allies, support, and awareness.
  • Pronoun use: Several respondents introduced personal pronouns through email signatures, online profiles, and work documents as a non-confrontational approach to asserting identity and promoting correct gender identification.
  • Partnering with human resources (HR): Leveraging HR provisions is an excellent way to foster progress in a workplace. Many companies already possess the mechanisms to implement inclusive changes in guidelines, facilities, and educational programs.

Every employee is entitled to equality and protection in the workplace. Still, realism dictates that activism and caution may sometimes be necessary to secure it. Whatever approach best suits an individual’s philosophy and professional situation, they should always incorporate self-care, inventory their mental health, and maintain necessary boundaries.

Expert Advice: Should You Include Pronouns on a Resume?

Outside our blind survey, asked hiring experts about including pronouns on resumes and whether applicants should share their gender identities in the hiring process. Their advice covered several widely varying perspectives:

  • Never include pronouns on resumes: “Less is more when it comes to the resume. Save the pronoun preference for the interview process, where you can provide context and engage directly with the hiring team. The resume’s primary function is to get you called in for an interview – keeping it concise and packed with relevant achievements and relatable skills makes a stronger impact.” –  Matthew Warzel, president of MJW Careers
  • Always includes pronouns on resumes and communications: “Candidates should include their pronouns in any communication to ensure everyone in the hiring process is informed. Not all hiring professionals will be receptive, but it can avoid errors from the get-go. This approach also helps assess whether there’s a good cultural fit – if recruiters refuse to use your pronouns, it might not be the best place to work.” – Beatriz Paz, talent matching manager at Revelo
  • Cautiously disclose gender identity in job search: “In a world with less bias and judgment, I would encourage the early disclosure of pronouns. The reality is, providing pronouns on most resumes (unless you know the organization is highly focused on diversity and inclusion) supplies little more than a potential tripping hazard for applicants.” – Nora Burns, founder of The Leadership Experts
  • Research the company before sharing about gender identity: Candidates should research companies before applying, with special attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This due diligence may indicate whether they can comfortably share their pronouns.” – Madelyn Mackie, career activator and resume writer

Even among experts in the hiring field, there is no universal conclusion concerning the timing of gender identity disclosure. The baseline advice contained in most of their suggestions included: arm yourself with information about the company, concentrate primarily on the professional substance of your resume, be cautious about disclosing too much personal information too soon, and be attentive to corporate reactions to gauge whether the work environment might be right for you.


Non-binary individuals survey methodology

We conducted an online survey of 379 working U.S. adults who identified as non-binary. Survey questions were multiple-choice and open-ended text answers. All respondents were employed, job-seeking, or due to start a job in the next month.

Participants ranged in age from 18 to 62, with a median age of 27. Participants were residents of 46 different U.S. states. Twenty percent of the nonbinary individuals were assigned male at birth, 76 percent were assigned female at birth, and five percent chose not to disclose their assigned sex at birth.

We used AI to analyze the open-text responses to summarize and look for overarching themes in the responses.

Hiring managers’ multivariate resume test

We showed 985 employed adult Americans with hiring responsibilities a description for a hypothetical entry-level position. We asked them to give feedback on a resume submitted for that role.

Our respondents ranged in age from 19 to 74, with a median age of 40. Our respondent pool had residents of 47 states plus the District of Columbia. Fifty percent of respondents were men, 47 percent were women, two percent identified as non-binary, and less than one percent declined to identify their gender.

Participants were 65 percent white, 17 percent black, eight percent multiracial, seven percent Asian, and 4 percent selected “other” or did not identify their ethnicity.

Each respondent was randomly shown one of four resumes. The resumes were identical (including a gender-neutral name), except that the test resumes included the pronouns “he/him,” “she/her,” or  “they/them” in the header below the name.

Resume seen Men respondents (including Trans Male/Trans Man)Woman respondents (including Trans Female/Trans Woman)Non-binary respondentsRespondents who did not disclose genderTotal
No pronouns (control)11313121247
he/him pronouns12311353244
she/her pronouns1281157250
they/them pronouns13210732244
Grand Total496466176985

The survey included Likert scale questions about the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and experience. Three other questions called for open-text written responses. For the open-text, we performed sentiment analysis where a computer program analyzed the sentences to assess the polarity (positive, neutral, or negative sentiment) and magnitude (strength of sentiment) the respondents conveyed in their written responses. This analysis delivered a numeric value ranging from very negative to very positive for each open-text response. We compared the average responses, dropoff rate (where respondents do not continue the survey), and survey completion times of the control resume (without pronouns) to the responses for the test resumes (where the resume included he/him, she/her, or they/them pronouns). We found all noted differences to be statistically significant.

Responses were adjusted to align with age and gender proportions in the workforce, as per statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, ensuring a representative distribution.

We prevented respondents from our 2023 resume test from taking this study again in 2024.

Likelihood to include pronouns on resume methodology

This sample was taken from three separate online surveys. Respondents included 350 men, 350 women, and 379 respondents who identified as non-binary. All respondents were employed either part-time or full-time.

Job satisfaction survey methodology

We conducted an online survey of 273 American adults who identified as non-binary, 350 as men, and 350 as women.

All employees were currently employed full- or part-time.

In our study, we wanted to see if there was a significant difference in general job satisfaction scores between non-binary individuals, men, and women. To do this, we used a method called a 1-tailed t-test. We compared two scores to see if one was generally higher or lower than the other rather than just different. We chose this method because we expected the non-binary results to be lower.

We collected job satisfaction ratings from all 973 participants. Then, we crunched the numbers to see if the change was significant enough to not just be due to chance.

After analyzing the data, our findings showed that job satisfaction scores were significantly higher for men and women compared to their non-binary counterparts. The differences we observed are strong enough that it’s highly unlikely to have happened by random chance. We’re confident that non-binary workers (both part-time and full-time) have lower job satisfaction than their counterparts that are men and women.

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