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Employers openly biased against nonbinary job applicant in resume study

A job applicant and a resume
Photo: Shutterstock

Nonbinary people face “clear bias” in the job market according to a new study from, with employers expressing blatant discrimination when presented with a resume that used they/them pronouns.

“As layoffs sweep through the U.S., our data shows nonbinary individuals may have a difficult time finding new jobs,” the site tweeted.

The three-phase study, published earlier this month, revealed that 80 percent of the 400 nonbinary people researchers spoke with believed that their gender identity would hurt their chances of finding a job.

According to the study, many nonbinary workers feel they must conceal their gender identity. “People have complained about ‘the gay agenda’ to me,” one person in Oregon said. “This is why I am hesitant to openly identify as nonbinary. It jeopardizes my personal safety to be out. I wish it didn’t.”

“I am in the nonbinary closet due to professional reasons,” one 34-year-old said. “I live in Florida, and coming out as nonbinary could cost me future job opportunities.”

Nonbinary people in the South were more likely to fear prejudice in the workplace even after being hired. “I have not experienced difficulty working as a nonbinary person in New York City, but I previously lived in South Carolina where it was more difficult… in South Carolina, I was told I had to stay closeted to succeed,” a 25-year-old professional said.

Researchers also sent two identical resumes out to 180 employers. Both resumes featured a gender-neutral name, but only one indicated they/them pronouns.

“Our experiment revealed that the resume with nonbinary pronouns received less interest from employers and fewer requests for interviews or phone screens,” researchers said.

In the study’s third phase, researchers reached out directly to hiring managers to find out why the resume that included they/them pronouns received less interest. “When we asked what, if anything, the applicants could improve about their resumes, several hiring managers revealed blatant biases and even bigotry against nonbinary job seekers,” researchers wrote.

“This person seems like a decent fit on paper, though I am not interested in the drama that a person who thinks they are a ‘they/them’ brings with them,” a 57-year-old in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry told researchers.

“I immediately balk at the supposed ‘gender neutral’ pronoun of ‘they/them,’” a 32-year-old man in the arts, design, and entertainment industry said. “It doesn’t make sense when used like this and is, at its root, an attack on women.”

“Though it’s not surprising that some people still hold onto biases against nonbinary people, it was surprising that these biases existed in some unexpected places,” the study’s author Ryan McGonnagill told The Advocate. “People of all genders, ages, and regions expressed bias and even flat-out bigotry against our nonbinary job applicant. So did hiring managers in many different industries — even those that are often considered more progressive, such as higher education and entertainment.”

McGonnagill and his fellow researchers asked several experts how employers can make their hiring processes more inclusive for people who identify as nonbinary. Suggestions included diversifying search teams, using inclusive language in job postings, and giving job applicants the opportunity to self-identify during the interview process. Researchers also suggested that employers hire outside consultants or in-house diversity, equity, and inclusion experts to aid in the hiring process.

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