How to Make Your Onboarding Paperwork More Gender Inclusive

Dear HRart Worker, 

What are your pronouns? 

I identify as a woman and go by she/her/hers pronouns. This is how I feel most comfortable to identify socially and professionally. When I complete a job application or onboarding paperwork, I use this chosen gender identity to inform companies how I should be addressed. 

Although, it’s easy for me to express my gender identity because I have been given the space to do so. My preferred gender is guaranteed to be in onboarding paperwork, not many people can say that. 

Considering many employees can not represent their gender identity, it’s time to update your onboarding paperwork. How does this benefit companies?

It will make the company’s onboarding process inclusive. Employees feel more comfortable working for a company that cares for them. As stated by the Limeade Institute, to demonstrate that employers support their employees, the company needs to prioritize the needs of their employees. Employees, like myself, want to work in an environment that appreciates their work no matter their identity or background. It’s important to note that allowing an employee to express their identity is not inclusivity. Inclusivity is valuing and integrating the experiences that employees have brought to the table. By broadening the options for gender in the onboarding process, it prioritizes the needs of new-hires and indicates that the company is a safe environment where employees can safely express themselves. 

Providing an inclusive environment can also lead to a lower turnover rate. Many employees leave within the first 6 months of employment. One only knows that the onboarding process can either make or break an employee. If a company can provide one more reason why an employee should stay, why not do so? If employees feel like they are being cared for, commitment towards the company will increase, which will lead to a lower turnover rate. 

Having a gender inclusive onboarding process is not a priority for all new-hires, but that does not mean that it should be ignored. In 2021, 11% of adults in the US identified as non-binary. These adults should have the opportunity to be represented. 

Now that it’s time to update your onboarding process, it’s difficult to know where to begin. 

Here are three ways companies can have a more gender inclusive onboarding process:

  1. Ask new hires about their pronouns in the onboarding paperwork. When asking for someone’s pronouns, a company should make the question optional. There’s no pressure if a new-hire does not feel comfortable disclosing this information. It’s also good practice to keep the question open-ended in the paperwork. Instead of telling the new hire what their pronouns can be, allow them to tell you what they are. 
  2. If asking for a new hire’s gender within the onboarding process, it must be done so respectfully. There are multiple ways to approach asking for one’s gender. First, you could allow for more responses than just male and female. Here is an example of a couple responses companies can include within their onboarding paperwork:

What is your current gender?

_ Male _Female _Non-binary _Agender


To ensure that your question is inclusive, it can also be made open-ended. Here is an example of an open-ended question:

What is your gender?


  1. Just like asking about an individual’s pronouns, if someone does not wish to disclose their gender, they should not be forced to do so. Make your questions optional. 

How NOT to Ask for Gender:

While there are multiple ways to ask for one’s gender, there is an incorrect way. When providing response options to the recipient, one of the gender options should not be “other”. This response gives the impression that other genders besides male and female are considered inferior.

Here is an example of what an inappropriate question might look like:

What is your current gender?

_ Male _Female _Other

Everyone knows the saying, treat people the way that you want to be treated. In the HR field, I believe that this fits perfectly in the direction that we are all trying to go. I have been given the opportunity to express my gender how I seemed fit throughout my professional career. I want to do the same for others as they have done for me. There are barriers that we have put up that prevent employees from expressing themselves freely. 

So- now that you know a little bit more about my gender identity, I would love to ask you, what are your pronouns?


Grace (she/her/hers) 

Cover Photo by Romain Dancre

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