Why Some Employers Are Wary of Hiring People Who List Their ‘Pronouns’ on Resumes
‘The accidental misgendering, the time off work to get your mastectomy, the recovery time from it, the sort of constant name changes’ are taxing, a Bay Area restaurant owner says.
Are employers hesitant to hire people who identify as transgender or nonbinary? As transgender rights issues dominate the headlines, that is a question being hotly debated on social media.
Several large right wing and gender-critical left wing accounts on X posted screenshots this week of answers to a Quora post asking, “Why won’t anybody hire me because I’m a transgender?” In internet fashion, many of the posts to X were intentionally provocative, calling pronouns “the biggest red flag” or saying that they would “never hire” people with pronouns on their resumes.
This isn’t solely an internet controversy, though. It has real-life effects. A study by Business.com found that employers are less likely to contact applicants with “they/them” pronouns on their resumes for interviews or assessment. Transgender adults are twice as likely to be unemployed than other adults, according to a McKinsey study.
“This is an open secret in the Bay Area,” an anonymous account with a large following called WomenAreReal posted to X. “I’ve had three separate conversations with small business owners in the service industry where they’ve brought up the fact (in hushed tones) that they no longer want to hire these folks. Too much narcissism, not enough maturity & very unreliable. These are businesses who have Instagrams with a heavy social justice presence. Progress flags, BLM, etc.”
The Sun spoke with the woman behind the WomenAreReal account, who self-describes as a liberal and runs a food service business in the Bay Area with 15 employees, two-thirds of whom are transgender or nonbinary. Afraid of the potential repercussions to her business and family for speaking out, she asked the Sun to use only her first name, Jane. She also deleted the tweet referenced above after we spoke.
“A lot of business owners are like me — liberal, classic bleeding hearts — and so, of course, they hire trans and nonbinary folks,” Jane tells the Sun. “I think just after acquiescing to so many of their demands and the amount of drama they cause in the workplace, several people have just been like, their patience has just ended. … The accidental misgendering, the time off work to get your mastectomy, the recovery time from it, the sort of constant name changes.”
Answers to the Quora post echoed this sentiment. “Actual owner of an actual company here,” a self-identified plumbing business owner replied. “Generally, I have found that the people who bring up gender or pronouns either in their application or interviews aren’t worth the inevitable headaches that they cause. My applications don’t even have a place to put that information, because I don’t care. All I care about is can you do the job.”
It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in hiring, but the Business.com study shows that employers find gender-neutral pronouns off-putting. It found that when two comparable resumes, one with gender-neutral pronouns and one pronoun-free, were submitted, hiring managers found the resume listing “they/them” pronouns to be 7 percent “less qualified” for the job and were 4 percent less likely to invite the candidate for an interview.
“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,” an employer in the agriculture and fishing industries told Business.com.
Jane says she was surprised when a handful of business owners openly admitted to her that they no longer want to hire transgender and nonbinary staff. “This is an example of how gender ideology actually hurts trans-identified people. None of these business owners I talked to thought this way five years ago,” she posted.
The Sun spoke with several business owners, none of whom wanted to go on the record because of potential legal and social repercussions for speaking out. The general sense, though, was that in certain industries, being transgender or nonbinary may be a benefit in getting hired, while in others, it is a liability. “I would never ever hire somebody that way,” an owner of a house-painting business tells the Sun.
Jane says that she’s caught in a bind because she does “really care” for her employees, most of whom are in their 20s. Yet she has decided she wants to “diversify” her staff now by hiring more straight people. She mentioned a queer-owned and -run café at Philadelphia called Mina’s World, which was forced to close last summer after its employees tried to “collectivize” and take over the business from its owners, broadcasting the drama on Instagram and garnering press.
“It’s not just the trans thing, it comes with this sort of Marxist ideology as well,” she says. “They’ll try to unionize your business, or they’ll try even to take over your business. They actively foment like you’re a businessperson, you’re the evil person making profit off our labor.”
Debates about transgender rights have reached a fever pitch, and it likely isn’t helping trans and nonbinary persons seeking jobs. A similar trend happened at the height of the #MeToo movement, when surveys found that men were increasingly reluctant to hire young — particularly attractive — women.
Incidents like what happened at Mina’s Cafe or TikTok videos that go viral of transgender employees outraged at being misgendered aren’t helping. Most employers want to avoid these scenes and potential lawsuits, and most transgender and nonbinary employees likely do as well.
“Things are a little crazy right now politically, but there are people and employers that care more about the person and what they have to offer than gender identity,” a self-identified transgender man, Bek Hartman, replied to the Quora post. “I have never brought up my gender identity in an interview or listed it on my resume because it doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t matter.”
“If the person had the qualifications, and if we thought they could do the job, then we’d put them forward. You can’t discriminate,” a C-suite and corporate board recruiter for RSR Partners, Trey Reynolds, tells the Sun. “Then it would be up to the client to make the decision.”
About 5 percent of young adults under 30 identify as transgender or nonbinary, according to Pew, which is a larger share than in previous generations. The negative perceptions among hiring managers of these groups also extend to Generation Z as a whole. More than 70 percent of managers say this generation is the hardest to work with, with “being too easily offended” given as a top reason in a ResumeBuilder.com survey.
A healthcare recruiter at Career Sparks, Vivien Treacy, tells the Sun a Generation Z candidate recently got upset when she told her to remove pronouns from her LinkedIn profile. “Keep religion, politics, medical info, sexual preferences off your resume and any professional profiles,” she advises, if you want to get the job.