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Report: Resumes with ‘They/Them’ Pronouns More Likely to Be Rejected

Resumes for people who identify as “non-binary” by including “They/Them” pronouns have a higher chance of being rejected.

The March report from the business resource platform Business.com showed that over 80 percent of people believe that openly identifying as nonbinary would dramatically hurt their job prospects, with 51 percent believing that gender identity has affected their workplace experience “very or somewhat negatively.”

To determine if the nonbinary status could be a potential dealbreaker, the platform sent two identical phantom resumes to “180 unique job postings that were explicitly open to entry-level candidates” to see “whether or not the inclusion of gender-neutral pronouns impacts how employers perceive resumes.”

Ryan McGonagill, director of industry research at Business.com and author of the report, said that both resumes “featured a gender-ambiguous name, ‘Taylor Williams.’”

“The only difference between the test and control resumes was the presence of gender pronouns on the test version,” he said in the report. “The test resume included ‘they/them’ pronouns under the name in the header.”

The end result showed that the resumes with “They/Them” pronouns received 8% less interest than the resumes with no pronouns. They also received fewer interview and phone screening invitations. Of the companies inquired, 64 percent listed themselves as Equal Opportunity Employers.

McGonagill told CNBC that the report shows that “inclusion” efforts have a long way to go.

We clearly have more work to do on several fronts. Over the past 10 years, DEIB efforts have been prioritized by many companies; however, the results of this study and past research show that teams in most industries aren’t proportionately representative of the U.S. population,” he said. “And worse, many people (like the nonbinary individuals we spoke with in our research) feel like they don’t belong.”

“Companies should have clearly-outlined initiatives and timelines for improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. On top of that, they should measure their employees’ sense of belonging. Investing in these efforts can only be positive for companies and team members alike,” he added.

McGonagill even argued that employers had broken the law by not hiring people “based on their gender identity,” adding that “it’s incredibly disappointing and unethical that many of the hiring managers in our study would disqualify a candidate for being authentic.”

Zelna McGee, senior director of learning and development at Centerfield Media, said companies should start working on how to mitigate alleged bias in their hiring practices.

“When you’re determining your hiring process, think about how bias could be introduced and how to mitigate it,” McGee told CNBC. “For example, your interview panel should be diverse in order to hold each other accountable and bring awareness to blind spots. The same can be said for filtering resumes or any other part of the hiring process.”

“If someone is new to hiring, have them partner with someone more experienced that could bring these biases to light. We all have biases, even if we don’t want to or don’t believe that we do. Put strategies in place to check yourself and hold your team accountable,” she added.

A 2021 report from the Williams Institute found that “an estimated 11% of LGBTQ adults in the U.S.—approximately 1.2 million people—identify as nonbinary,” with a majority being “under age 29, urban, and white.”

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