Inclusive Behaviors and Language
In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Amber Briggle about implementing inclusive behaviors and non-exclusionary language into the workplace. We might be familiar with increasingly common inclusive practices like offering our preferred pronouns or using gender-neutral language; but, what more can we do to promote non-discriminatory culture in the workplace? While Amber walks us through the endless possibilities, we quickly realize that the better question to ask is: what can’t we do? As a small business owner and parent to a transgender child, Amber teaches us that although conscious and unconscious discriminatory behavior often pervade the workplace, uprooting these behaviors is well within reach. From breaking the habit of assuming gender and sexuality to rewriting parental leave policies, Amber emphasizes that being mindful of inclusivity through our interactions benefits the well-being of individuals and businesses alike. Although these actions appear slight, they are meaningful to people who are constantly excluded from the heteronormative mainstream. Being seen and valued is a privilege easily taken for granted, so let’s pay it forward to everyone of all identities!
Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Amber Briggle, CMT
Amber Briggle (she/her) is an activist, speaker, writers, and self-described “mamabear” of a transgender child. Amber is internationally recognized for her work involving LGBTQ advocacy, is a founding member and former national co-chair of the Human Rights Campaign’s “Parents for Transgender Equality Council” and has been previously nominated by the Dallas Morning News as “Texan of the Year.” Mostly, though, she’s “just a mom” in the Dallas area who loves both of her kids unconditionally.
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Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “My Journey Being Included in the Workplace” by Ashley Rodriguez
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Sponsor: Today's episode is brought to you by HERdacity. HERdacity is a non-profit inspiring confidence in women to achieve their professional goals. For resources, networking opportunities, and a strong community of women visit herdacity.org to learn more.
Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious a podcast for audacious women. Welcome to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make some career moves and utilizing HERdacious to help you do so. My name is Lorelei and I'm the host of the show, and today we're gonna be talking about inclusive behaviors and language in the workplace. And joining me today, I have a founding member and former national co-chair of the human rights campaign's, parents for transgender equality council, an activist, a writer, a speaker, and a mama bear. Amber Briggle.
Amber: Thanks so much for having me here today. I'm super excited to talk about this.
Lorelei: I'm excited to have you here. This is going to be an epic conversation, to get us started, please share with our listeners why you are so passionate about inclusivity in the workplace and beyond.
Amber: So I am the parent of two children, one of whom is transgender. His name is Max, and he transitioned halfway through first grade, that was back in early 2015, it seems like 100 years ago, before hardly anyone was talking about the transgender community, let alone transgender children. So this was before Jazz Jennings, a very famous young transgender woman, she has a hit reality TV show called "I Am Jazz." This is way before her show, this was before we have any of the conversations that we're having today in our society, and so I was just kind of winging it. So I didn't go to school for this, I don't work in corporate America, but I am the parent of a young transgender boy, he's now 13, and I'm also a small business owner.
Lorelei: Excellent, so with inclusivity being a personal and professional mission and passion for you, what types of advocacy work do you participate in?
Amber: Yeah, so I'm kind of a freelancer, right? So I was a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign, parents for transgender equality council. It's a fantastic group of some amazing leaders from across the country, they're still in existence and doing some truly tremendous things, so I was a founding member and started with them for about three years, but I just kind of do what I have to do as a mom, and as a small business owner, so sometimes that will mean presenting at a local conference. I've done a Tedx talk, I've written some things, both at the local and at the national level of different publications. I also volunteer in my Chamber of Commerce, we just recently instituted a DEI Committee, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. And I was really excited when I saw that, because I think we definitely need more leadership in chambers of commerce, we need more leadership in boardrooms, we need more diversity in that leadership, so I was very excited to sign up for that. So I just kind of... I go where I'm needed basically.
Lorelei: Yeah, love that. Well, as I mentioned at the top of the show, we're gonna be talking about inclusive behaviors in the workplace. So what does inclusive behavior really boil down to for us working folks?
Amber: I think I look at it from, I guess, kind of two aspects, one is I wanna make sure that my employees and my team feel equal, feel that they're being treated fairly, that they have equal opportunities in my business, but I also wanna make sure that our clients feel that this is a safe and welcoming space. Specifically, I run a massage studio, when it's already kind of a vulnerable place to be, 'cause you're going in and literally getting naked for a stranger, and so it's already a very vulnerable sort of feeling, and then when you add to the top of that feelings of we certainly don't wanna mis-gender anyone, we don't wanna trigger anyone by calling them by the wrong name, we don't want to be just saying just the slightest wrong word or having even just our bathroom signs, making sure that we're using the word like menstrual products and sort of feminine products, you know what I mean? Just really being very mindful of all the ways that I can help people feel safe and welcome and protected in my business. I think it takes on a lot of different aspects, and you can look at it from a very small example, like what I use with my bathroom signs and blow it way on up to, like I said before, leadership in your board rooms. So I think it can take on lots of different aspects, depending on the size of your company and what it is that you do to engage with the public.
Lorelei: Well, you mentioned a few examples a moment ago, can you share some more behavioral specifics around inclusive practices?
Amber: Let's start with pronouns. I think it would be very beneficial and very helpful if we could just all walk around with pronoun pins, just really normalize introducing yourself with your pronouns, I saw that you put it in your email signature, I put it in mine as well, maybe encouraging your front desk staff to wear pronoun pins, especially if you work in a forward-facing environment such as maybe medical. I think it's important not to assume someone is partnered, and when you find out that they're partnered, don't assume that their partner is of the opposite sex, using inclusive language around partners, spouses, single people, making sure that everyone is feeling included. As I said in the beginning too, even in my bathrooms, we don't have a sign that says we don't want people to flush tampons down the toilet, right. Instead of saying, "Please don't flush feminine products," we say "menstrual products" because transgender men and non-binary people can be menstruating people too. I think also, it's important, I'm thinking really also more like in the medical office is making sure that your lobbies showcase the diversity of your patients.
Lorelei: Like in marketing collateral? Like your pictures you see on the wall...
Amber: Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Having children's books that have two dads, having pictures of racially diverse families, I think that's just showing the diversity, I think can really signal to someone that you are an ally and a studio in your business is a safe space to be. I think also just kinda just kind of riffing, I think maybe your receptionist desk or you can have some literature in your bathroom or office or resources for LGBTQ. I'm not saying you have to hire a painter to blow up your logo in Rainbows every June, but the thing... There's even little things that you can do on a day-to-day basis that show that you are aware that diversity and inclusion is very important to not only your staff, but your clients and customers as well.
Lorelei: Something we do on a day-to-day basis is speak usually for those of us who have that ability, so let's talk about inclusive language, give us a few examples, you already give us one with the menstrual products, you got some more?
Amber: Yeah, oh absolutely. I think we understand our world based on the words that we use, that is how we define our world. And help us understand who we are and our place in it. So it really boils down to language, I started the last question by answering about pronouns, it's all about language, so maybe instead of saying like, "Hey guys... " Yeah. "Hey, y'all." "Hello friends." If you work in a school, instead of saying boys and girls call them scholars or students or children or friends, something more gender-inclusive, and remembering too that gender is not a binary. Even Disney, for example, they changed their opening welcome for their nightly fireworks show. They used to say, "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and dreamers of all ages." Right. That doesn't really include everyone. Because what about gender-queer or non-binary people, so they just cut out the whole binary thing and they just say, "Welcome dreamers of all ages." Right.
Amber: I think you could review your documentation on your intake forms. Of course, I'm again, speaking as someone who runs a massage studio, do you really need to know a person's gender? Or do you just need to their sex? Those are different things, and they don't always align. From myself, as a massage therapist, like I don't need to know what your gender identity is, I need to know where your pain is, let's talk about your sciatica. That's valid information, right? Do you have a place for pronouns on your intake forms? And more than just, he versus she, who could be maybe diversify even the way that people answer that. Right. I think, being the parent of a transgender child, I've seen this in the medical field, those forms are super outdated and they always just blame it on corporate, but I mean, they have a lot more sway in changing those forms than I do, just as one single person. So I think advocating for making sure that those forms, both online and on paper reflect again, the diversity of your patients.
Lorelei: When you talked about corporate, I mean, Disney is one of the largest corporations of all, and if they can make some changes to their opening welcome at a nightly event that they host, I mean, come on, we can change some paperwork.
Amber: Yeah, absolutely. I haven't had a whole lot of issues with my son seeing doctors, but I have had issues with their front desk staff using the wrong name, because these are medical records using the wrong pronouns, even though it's very clear that he's a boy. It may not even be intentional for them, there just may not be a place on their online form for these pronouns that this child uses, they're seeing his birth name and might be using female pronouns thinking that they're being helpful when they're really not. Right, so I think training your front desk staff on these inclusive behaviors can go a really long way, 'cause again, they are the first people that we see, so we want to feel welcome there too. So I think also we as Texans, we use a lot of sir, ma'am. Yes ma'am, yes sir. We don't need to do that. I'm from the north country, Northerners don't do that. And we're able to communicate just fine, if you need a follow-up, you'd be like, "Yes, please," "no, thank you," but I don't assume. Again, someone's gender identity when you're speaking on a phone, I mean, you could be a transgender woman with a very deep voice and vice versa, so just knock it off. We don't have to do this. It's just irrelevant. We don't need that anymore. Your restroom signs, we could certainly change those, I don't need my gender to pee, I just need to toilet. So we could have a sign on that says "toilet." And I think too, again, talking about language, I'm gonna call myself out here on this one, I was reviewing my website because we recently expanded and so I feel like that needs a new website and polishing up. And I was going through and I was reading my section on prenatal massage, and I kept using the words pregnant mother or mother and baby, and what I know now that I didn't know then when I designed my website is that it's not just cis gender women who get pregnant, non-binary people and transgender men, actually have babies quite frequently, so I changed the language just to pregnant clients, giving in mind too, that pregnant parent might not even be the best way to say that because it might be a surrogate, right. So I think just reviewing everything that is facing out to the public, that is the first thing that people see. And if you want to show yourself as being an inclusive environment, it all boils down to language, so do some self-evaluation, look around your studio, look around your business, look at your bathroom signs, or your website and find ways that you can improve that.
Lorelei: Digging a little deeper into reviewing internal documents and outward-facing content, we can talk about workplace policies for a second, do you have a few examples of inclusive workplace policies that we could start pondering on?
Amber: Oh yeah, absolutely. So let's start with like maternity leave, right? Again, that's a gendered word, we don't need to use it, and it's not just mothers who need to take what's essentially parental leave. I'm very fortunate, my partner is a super hands-on dad, were very privileged when I had my babies, he had a job where he could work from home, and this was pre-pandemic, he also had a job where you could just kind of... Duck out for a couple of days if I needed some support, I would have loved to have him there all the time, and I think he would have loved to have been there with his newborns as well, so I think changing not only the language from maternity leave to parental leave, but then also making sure that it's not just the moms who get it, and also it's not just parents who just recently gave birth. What if you're adopting?
Lorelei: What about the surrogacy you mentioned earlier...
Amber: Absolutely, you need time to recover from that if you're a surrogate and you need time to bond with your children if you're adoptive parents, so I think that would be a really great workplace policy. I would love to see that everyone start right away. I think finding a dedicated space, not just the bathroom, for chest feeding parents, I wouldn't say breastfeeding mothers, 'cause again, that's gendered or chest-feeding parents pump too. A space out of bathroom, like that's gross. I don't wanna have lunch in the bathroom, I don't think we should expect babies to have their lunch prepared there either. That would be fantastic. I think reviewing your healthcare policies, I bump into this a lot, a lot, as the parent of a transgender child. If a cisgender person is able to access healthcare, be it surgeries, procedures, hormones, medications, whatever it is, that a transgender person is not able to access, and they're on the same plan, that is quite frankly discriminatory, right. There's cis-gender women who need estrogen, there's cis gender men who need testosterone, like why can't trans men not access testosterone as well, right. There are breast cancer survivors who need breast augmentation surgery, why are transgender women cut out of that as well? These are medically prescribed best practices procedures that their physicians are prescribing for them, and they absolutely need equal access to these. Just full stop. Lastly, it's really important to remember that there are now workforce protections for LGBTQ employees, so the Supreme Court ruled on a case, I believe it was last summer, Bostock versus Clayton County, which basically said you cannot discriminate against someone in the workplace based on their gender identity or their sexual orientation, that is extremely important to remember. It's important to train your HR, your management, people at all levels to understand that this is illegal, it is un-American, it's un-Texan, and it does not fit the values of quite frankly, any successful business out there. It's really important to remember that there are legal protections, federal legal protections for your LGBTQ employees, and so advocating for your colleagues any time you can is incredibly important, and it shows that you're really conscious of creating a more inclusive work environment which benefits quite frankly, everyone.
Lorelei: Excellent. And to benefit this show, we're gonna take a brief sponsor break. We'll be right back.
Sponsor: Hi. Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie pop duo. If you enjoy the intro music, we invite you to listen to our debut EP "Honeymoon." Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music [dot] com for more.
Lorelei: And we're back talking with Amber Briggle about inclusive workplace practices. Many of us have some sort of ability to influence our workplace policies, how might we go about that sort of internal advocacy?
Amber: Absolutely, so let's start with bigger companies. A lot of mid to large sized companies will have what are called ERG or employee resource groups, you could start or join an LGBTQ ERG within your company, which will help you advocate for that change internally. For sure, there's power in numbers. Really any company of any size defending and advocating for your LGBTQ friends, even when they're not in the room, so if someone is misnamed or what we would say "dead named," correct that person. And use that and challenge them to do better, so you're creating a culture of ally-ship and safety or creating that culture, which is then going to permeate the entire organization. Talk to HR about how employees are categorized in the system, so going back to those intake forms for your clients and patients, the way how even your colleagues and employees are categorized in the system, do you need to know male and female, are there more options for that and what happens when someone does transition in the workplace? Are there gender transition guidelines with supportive restroom and dress code and documentation guidance? That's all really critical. Basically, what fields are absolutely necessary on your intake forms and which ones are not. Again, it all goes back to language, I know it seems small, but words absolutely have power.
Lorelei: Help us make the economic case for inclusion in the workplace, because I know that you know that it impacts the bottom line.
Amber: It absolutely affects the bottom line, and it literally costs nothing to be kind to people, to all people and to treat them fairly in the workplace costs you zero dollars, but discrimination absolutely has a huge cost. So these numbers were taken from Texas Competes, it's a fantastic organization that I encourage every business large and small to join. Basically, if Texas passed a non-discrimination law, similar to other states that would protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, it would create 18,000 new tech and tourism jobs by 2025, and 72,000 new jobs by 2045. That is tremendous, 12 billion annually in state revenue from 2021 to 2025, and 900 million in annual local government revenue, that would be huge for local governments everywhere, 900 million annually for them. Also from Texas Competes, there would be increased business activity, obviously, because when you have a state-wide law that protects your employees, it also protects their houses, their partners, their gender, children like mine, you don't wanna move to a state where you feel somewhat that you or someone you love could be harmed by the government, so you're just not gonna even apply for that job, which makes a smaller pool of candidates and less economic activity, for sure.
Just as an example, when North Carolina passed their bathroom bill, they hemorrhaged money. Again from 2017, AP analysis show that they lost $376 billion, billion dollars in economic losses, and I think these laws don't even have to pass in order for them to have the economic damage, because these conferences, they plan years out. Right, and so if it's even a possibility that your state could pass a discriminatory law, then those conferences and conventions are gonna look elsewhere. Just in 2017, when Texas was trying, thank goodness, unsuccessfully, to pass a bathroom bill, Texas lost $66 million in meetings. We might remember that bill didn't even pass, so that loss could have been exponentially higher too. A lot of this data can be found at texascompetes [dot] org. I really encourage everyone to look that up and also sign your business or your organization up, they're a fantastic resources because discrimination is just bad for business. Plain and simple.
Lorelei: Thank you for that. So we are recording this episode in July of 2021, so naturally, we just come out of the month of June, PRIDE month, where we saw lots of those rainbow logos, as you mentioned before, and lots of rainbow marketing efforts, how can companies show up for the LGBTQ community, the other 11 months of the year?
Amber: It's so important. Thank you for asking this question. I think it's shameful. Shameful when businesses are all about... "Yeah, we love LGBTQ people." And then in July, they're like, "Okay, moving on." I mean, there were over 30 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in Texas in the regular session, when we're recording this, it's like we're one week into the special session and 15 anti-transgender bills have been filed in the Special Session, and I have heard nary a peep. The business community in 2017, it was the business community that really stood up and spoke out loudly against those bathroom bills, and that was a large part about why they failed. It was quite frankly, discrimination is bad for business. Where are those businesses today? It's just a different vibe and we need businesses to advocate for your employees and your customers every day out of the year, not just in June.
Lorelei: To reiterate, discrimination is bad for business. What can we do, what can folks do with their small businesses at their non-profits within their larger organizations to create more inclusive, more fair, more equitable practices for our LGBTQ colleagues and customers?
Amber: Absolutely, so we've touched on a lot of this already. So it's a language in the workplace, it's HR policies, it's access to healthcare. I think using your position as a business owner, small or large size, it's important to remember small businesses, we can do a lot to support the LGBTQ community. We create 15 million jobs annually and represent 95% of all companies in this country, so just because you're a small business owner doesn't mean that you don't have a voice, so use your place as a business owner of any size to write or contact your elected officials. Push for things like local do's, non-discrimination ordinances, push for things like the Equality Act to be a federal act that would protect the LGBTQ community. Lobby your Chamber of Commerce. Chambers of Commerce have huge sway when it comes to speaking to their elected officials so lobby them to get involved and show them this data from Texas Competes. It's important for them to speak up because it's good for business when we're good to all people. Join an organization like Texas Competes, like I said, changing your bathroom signs, love your city council. There are literally a million things that businesses of any size can do to make the world a better place.
Lorelei: Excellent, excellent. I appreciate you advocating for us to get creative to be more inclusive. Lastly, share some resources that our listeners can follow up with to continue their learning journeys on building inclusive behaviors.
Amber: Yeah, sure, so I've already mentioned Texas Competes a million times, 'cause of what they're doing, also a woman-led organization, so I definitely would sign up. It's texascompetes [dot] org. And the Human Rights Campaign has what they call a Corporate Equality Index. You likely have heard of this, different companies will score different grades based on their inclusive benefits or their workforce protections or whether they're not they support an inclusive culture, whatnot. So you can look at what the corporate quality index measures and see if you can implement some of those practices and policies into your business, again, large or small, it just might be a good kind of jumping off point if you're wondering where to begin. Look at what HRC is measuring. And see if you can match that.
Lorelei: Excellent, thank you so much for that Amber. Well, in our final segment of the show, our femme fact, I would like to share that the writer of most of these wonderful pieces of history or news is HERdacity's own Claudia Ng, and her Achilles heel of women's historical femme facts are warrior women. So in this episode's femme fact, we're going back to pre-modern Japan, where an entourage of highly skilled female exclusive warriors were not only common place but deeply honored. Long, long ago, around 200 CE, a legend has it that the 14th emperor of Japan, emperor Chūai, died in battle on his attempt to invade what is now known as Korea. It is said that his wife, the legendary empress Jingū, enraged at the loss of him, sought vengeance for her husband's death and rallied/sailed the army to what we now know as Korea, where she avenged her husband by slaughtering his former opponents in a multi-year war. Empress Jingū thereafter became the first recorded Japanese Empress to lead a foreign invasion and also became known as one of the first onna-musha. As I mentioned a moment ago, onna-musha and the onna-bugeisha were women combat fighters modeled after the male Samurai whom they collaborated with during war time. Diving into semantics for just a moment.
The onna-bugeisha consisted of women who specialized in defensive combat, they trained to use a weapon specifically designed for women called a Nagata, while the women of the onna-musha specialized in offensive content, they were trained in martial art, as well as weapon-wielding and were especially well-versed in the Art of Knife fighting, known as tantojutsu. Nevertheless, both terms essentially translate to warrior women, and long story short, they both really slayed at their jobs... Wink wink. Even though the onna-musha were women, pre-modern Japan considered them to be part of the bushi or Samurai class in medieval Japan. The bushi were hallmarked by a few important characteristics. For instance, the members were of inherited military rank and stature, so in the US, you might call this a military brat, except that you did join the military later, AKA the samurai, the onna-musha were well paid, think like Dr. Lawyer, engineer levels, and they were regarded as an elite warrior class, which allowed for special privileges, like being able to carry two swords in public... Responsibly of course. Now, this might be surprising to some as modern day Japan regards domesticity as a woman's central role, which can be argued to be a relatively recent occurrence, because no such view existed in the origins of the onna-musha. Just like the samurai, the onna-musha had an inherent duty to protect their families, their land and their nation. One of the most famous and one of the last warrior women in Japanese history was Nakano Takeko, who unfortunately, was on the receiving end of these changing attitudes. Nakano Takeko was an onna-bugeisha warrior who frequently commanded the front lines of defense, however, in the mid-1860s, the Meiji imperial family sought power over the Tokugawa clan and civil war ensued. Wanting to fight in favor of the Tokugawa clan, Nakano enlisted in the Aizu army, but was banned from active duty due to her gender.
She responded to the form of dismissal by creating her own army of female warriors called The Aizu Joshitai. During the Battle of Aizu, Nakano led her unofficial women's only troop to the front lines despite the use of firearms in this battle. Nakano was said to have taken down five or six enemy soldiers before taking a fatal shot to the chest. During her last moments of life, it has said that Nakano instructed her sister to cut off her head to prevent the Imperials from claiming her body as a trophy, her sister agreed and Nakano's remains were later taken to Hokai Temple where she is now buried beneath a pine tree. The Meiji imperial family ultimately won the war and took over Japan in 1816, which led to the major restoration, bringing about major practical, political, and historical changes to Japan, one might say, historical edits. It also brought about the destruction of the samurai class, and especially the tradition of warrior women. As is sadly common on our end of the globe, Westerners also rewrote this event in Japanese history with special attention to the contributions of the romanticized Samurai and often completely omitting the roles that the onna-bugeisha and the onna-musha had in defending Japan's honor, which the major imperial family likely supported. Despite broad belief that the onna-musha's weak acknowledgement in history was due to female warriors being a rarity, this is instead most likely due to historical edits across the board, there have been numerous excavations of former battle sites across Japan, showing that up to 30% of the deceased population from battles were women. Japanese warrior women existed, they were honorable and they were bad ass until the hands of history decided that they shouldn't be.
So let it be known that these women were not a tale, not a fable or fiction, they were real and remarkable, and more importantly, they show us the indomitable power of women, especially in societies that often condition us to hear... "That's not for you." And having that knowledge, my friends, is more powerful than any battle knife ever wielded. Amber, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you wield your weapons of war with us today. You have been an incredible onna-musha, mama bear.
Amber: This was so fun, thank you so much for inviting me, and I hope it's been helpful for your listeners.
Lorelei: I believe it has. Thank you again. If you enjoyed this episode and you have not already subscribed to our show, I encourage you to follow or subscribe on any places where you get your podcasts. If you have any questions or comments, you are welcome to send in an email to herdacious [at] herdacity [dot] org. I will be sure to link the amazing resources that Amber shared in this episode, as well as that email in the show notes, and I hope that you tune in again next time. Until then, this is HERdacious. My name is Lorelei, go out there and wield your weapons of war for good.