Gender-neutral options are "right thing to do", says Metro Bank CPO
Bek Frith, November 23, 2016
Metro Bank does not believe in 'stupid rules', such as forcing people to choose a gender on forms
Offering gender-neutral options for customers and employees is the “right thing to do” according to Danny Harmer, chief people officer of Metro Bank.
“At Metro Bank our colleagues are empowered to question any stupid rules they find,” Harmer told HR magazine. “A colleague picked up on a story in the press a few months ago about a gender-neutral customer who tried to open a bank account, but was continually asked to identify as either male or female. They asked whether we could introduce both Mx as a title option and non-binary as a gender option to help customers in a similar situation.”
Mx (pronounced ‘miks’) does not indicate gender, and can be used instead of gendered titles such as Mr or Ms. While the word first appeared in the 1970s it has recently gained traction in and been adopted by UK institutions, including Royal Mail and Battersea Cats and Dogs Home.
“When you consider how many times a day you are asked for your gender and/or title it’s pretty apparent how difficult it must be to constantly be forced into a box you don’t fit in,” Harmer added.
At Metro Bank the decision to introduce the title was not considered part of an LGBT-specific strategy, but more a reflection of Metro Bank's culture. “It is simply the right thing to do,” said Harmer. “As a business we welcome everyone, whatever their age, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality, so it was an easy decision for us to say 'yes' and then work out how to make it happen.”
Harmer suggested that other firms should take a similar stand. “I think organisations need to listen to their customers and colleagues and be braver,” she said. “Surely it is better to have positive intent and get something mostly right than do nothing for fear of getting it wrong. If we all took this approach we could change things for the better and show customers and employees that businesses can be ‘human’.
“I really hope to see other companies follow our lead, both for customers and colleagues. Listen to your customers and employees, go for it, and don't let any 'stupid bank rules' or equivalent get in your way.”