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https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2022/06/27/why-its-important-to-add-gender-identity-options-to-digital-services/

Why it’s important to add gender identity options to digital services

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, People and skills

Five posters, ordered chromatically from red to teal from left to right. Their subject matter is regarding encouraging openness in the workplace, and being true to oneself.
Diversity information, and particularly gender and sexual identity, is very personal information, but it is also complex and broad information about a person.

Diversity data matters because it can help us understand the impact of our working practices and policies. By tracking diversity data and cross-referencing it with recruitment, retention, learning, development and progression, we can work to make sure that both recruitment processes and career progression are more diverse. It allows us to see how far we have come and how far we have to go.

At the Government Digital Service, ensuring the diversity of our team is key. Located at the very centre of government, our role in supporting the government to build brilliant services for everyone means that we, more than ever, are working to ensure diversity of thought and representation of the country that we serve.

Recording your gender identity and what we did to change this

We surveyed staff at Government Digital Service in October 2021 and they told us that the options to record their gender identity for their employee records was too narrow and didn’t allow the option to provide a description that reflected their identity accurately. The data recording options only allowed staff to record their gender as ‘male’ or ‘female’, but didn’t cater to those who identified any other way.

People made suggestions to add more options and allow free text to describe their identity themselves. People felt that the lack of options restricted them and made it more likely that they would not provide information at all.

Our LGBT+ group worked with other parts of the Cabinet Office to explore what questions or options could be added into our data recording system, how these could be implemented and what the timelines could be. During this process, we shared the questions with members of the LGBT+ community in Government Digital Service to get views as well as keeping them updated on the progress.

Working with a wide network of colleagues across the Cabinet Office, we secured an option to add and recognise gender identity in our recording system, which was added in March 2022.

People are now asked firstly if they identity with the sex they were assigned at birth and can answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Prefer not to say’. If they answer the first question as ‘No’, they are then given the option to provide free text about their gender identity.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of this change reflected in our quarterly data during 2022/23 and hope to share some more information about this in a future update.

Diversity and inclusion strategies

Government Digital Service supports the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy: 2022-2025 to have a truly diverse workforce and culture of openness and inclusivity. Team diversity is crucial to organisational performance, innovation and difference of thought.

Establishing teams with differing perspectives, experiences and insight is integral to tackling complex problems, and there is a clear correlation between diversity and organisational performance; enabling better attraction of top talent, improvement of employee satisfaction and decision-making, which leads to improved outputs.

Recording data helps to review progress

However, we can only achieve this if we collect information about who is in our teams and match companies like Monzo in their ability to report and be transparent on the diversity of their organisation and see how this changes over time.

Enabling staff to record their gender identity with the Cabinet Office is a major step forward in helping those people feel valued and understood.

As well as adding this option to our data recording, GDS has also encouraged people to fill out spaces in our internal communications tools to record their preferred pronouns and people are also encouraged to include these in their email signatures.

If you would like to know more about making your services and content inclusive, you can read more about collecting equality information in public services.

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9 comments

  1. Comment by Alan Henness posted on

    Thanks for your reply.

    The protected characteristic of gender reassignment has a quite specific definition in the Equality Act[1] and is entirely separate from the protected characteristic of sex, which relates to an individual being either female or male. The term 'gender' is not used or defined in the Act.

    You talk about allowing "staff to record their gender as ‘male’ or ‘female’". I hope you can see the risks of using these terms for 'gender' when they are already used for sex and realise that you are conflating sex and 'gender'?

    Do you not accept that 'gender', 'gender identity' and similar terms rely on demeaning, regressive stereotypical notions of societal roles for the two sexes, concepts with which I'm sure you would not wish to be associated and concepts that, if relied upon, might compromise your PSED?

    But if you really are seeking information on whether staff fall within the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, why not simply ask about that rather than a circuitous route talking about 'gender' and having to make assumptions about what the person understands by that?

    But I'm pleased to see that in your reply, you talked about 'sex registered at birth' (although sex on its own is sufficient) and not 'assigned'.

    You say staff "can confirm, deny or refuse to answer the question" on 'gender' but can you confirm you also have an option for those who have no gender?

    Can you provide a copy of the form?

    However, your reply is mostly about equality data to monitor discrimination but your blog post is about 'diversity'. These are clearly not the same domain[2] so can you clarify which personal data you gather for reasons of equality and which for diversity?

    You say "We do not require that people share whether they are male or female (sex)" so how do you ensure you have the data you need for Equality Act discrimination purposes or for the purposes of understanding diversity?

    You link to your 'Equality information' page: https://design-system.service.gov.uk/patterns/equality-information/ but this, talking about PSED and equality information, lists "sex and gender identity" as if they were connected and doesn't list gender reassignment. Why is that? Additionally, the protected characteristic is 'religion or belief' and not just religion.[3]

    You seem to be confusing and conflating two entirely separate sets of data gathered for different purposes. Can you allay my fears that you are collecting data that are not fit for either purpose?

    __________
    1. Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/7

    2. Equality? Diversity? Inclusion? | Sex. Not gender. https://www.sexnotgender.info/equality-diversity-inclusion/

    3. Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/10

    Reply
  2. Comment by Alan Henness posted on

    Thanks for your reply.

    The protected characteristic of gender reassignment has a quite specific definition in the Equality Act[1] and is entirely separate from the protected characteristic of sex, which relates to an individual being either female or male. The term 'gender' is not used or defined in the Act.

    You talk about allowing "staff to record their gender as ‘male’ or ‘female’". I hope you can see the risks of using these terms for 'gender' when they are already used for sex and realise that you are conflating sex and 'gender'?

    Do you not accept that 'gender', 'gender identity' and similar terms rely on demeaning, regressive stereotypical notions of societal roles for the two sexes, concepts with which I'm sure you would not wish to be associated and concepts that, if relied upon, might compromise your PSED?

    But if you really are seeking information on whether staff fall within the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, why not simply ask about that rather than a circuitous route talking about 'gender' and having to make assumptions about what the person understands by that?

    But I'm pleased to see that in your reply, you talked about 'sex registered at birth' (although sex on its own is sufficient) and not 'assigned'.

    You say staff "can confirm, deny or refuse to answer the question" on 'gender' but can you confirm you also have an option for those who have no gender?

    Can you provide a copy of the form?

    However, your reply is mostly about equality data to monitor discrimination but your blog post is about 'diversity'. These are clearly not the same domain[2] so can you clarify which personal data you gather for reasons of equality and which for diversity?

    You say "We do not require that people share whether they are male or female (sex)" so how do you ensure you have the data you need for Equality Act discrimination purposes or for the purposes of understanding diversity?

    You link to your 'Equality information' page: https://design-system.service.gov.uk/patterns/equality-information/ but this, talking about PSED and equality information, lists "sex and gender identity" as if they were connected and doesn't list gender reassignment. Why is that? Additionally, the protected characteristic is 'religion or belief' and not just religion.[3]

    You seem to be confusing and conflating two entirely separate sets of data gathered for different purposes. Can you allay my fears that you are collecting data that are not fit for either purpose?

    __________
    1. Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/7

    2. Equality? Diversity? Inclusion? | Sex. Not gender. https://www.sexnotgender.info/equality-diversity-inclusion/

    3. Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/10

    Reply
    • Replies to Alan Henness>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Thanks Alan. As the blog post highlights, changes were made based on staff feedback.

      Reply
  3. Comment by Alan Henness posted on

    'Female' and 'male' are not genders and are not identities: they are the terms for the two human sexes (as used in the Equality Act 2010 and consistent with biology) so using them for a different categorisation is misleading and likely to gather inconsistent personal data. Sex is not 'assigned at birth': it is observed and recorded.

    Many organisations - including Government departments [1] don't gather data on the protected characteristic of sex or (inadvertently or otherwise) confuse and conflate 'gender' with sex. This results in gathering data that are unreliable.

    Many also do not gather data on the protected characteristic of gender reassignment so cannot know if they are inadvertently discriminating on that protected characteristic.

    Before starting to collect data on 'gender' or 'gender identity' (whatever you mean by those terms), do you not think it would be wise to ensure you are correctly gathering reliable data on protected characteristics so you can be sure you are not unlawfully discriminating against those with protected characteristics and are complying with your Public Sector Equality Duties?

    __________
    1. Sex. Not gender. https://www.sexnotgender.info/equality-monitoring/government/

    Reply
    • Replies to Alan Henness>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Hi Alan,

      This change takes does not conflate sex and gender. We do not require that people share whether they are male or female (sex). However, we recognise that people may not perceive themselves in alignment with the sex they were registered as at birth, and give them the room to express this (gender), based on feedback from staff. They can confirm, deny or refuse to answer the question. Such responses could make us aware that we employ staff who may fall under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, and ensure that we prevent their discrimination.

      Thanks,
      The GDS Team

      Reply
      • Replies to The GDS Team>

        Comment by Jordan posted on

        So you are NOT recording and monitoring your employees by the protected characteristic of sex? And you are only getting data on gender reassignment by deduction rather than by asking a direct question? This is a very odd way of proceeding. Life is really not this complicated.

        Reply
      • Replies to The GDS Team>

        Comment by Gillian Parke posted on

        So how, therefore, do you track women, the female sex, who fall under the protected characteristic of sex? Especially when men can add themselves as female and influence the data collected around sex discrimination?

        Reply
        • Replies to Gillian Parke>

          Comment by Jamie posted on

          This situation and vice versa can happen anywhere, it's just inaccurate malicious data. Under all setups that do not require a Gender Recognition Certificate have the risk of inaccurate data entry.

          Women, if they wanted to, could also set themselves as Male and influence the data for other reasons.

          Reply
    • Replies to Alan Henness>

      Comment by Laverne posted on

      Alan is right. You seem very confused by this whole sex and gender business. And you are promoting gender stereotypes which is highly regressive.

      Reply

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