Zenefits serves as the HR system of record for thousands of businesses, but we strive to be much more than just that. We want to help small businesses and their employees thrive, and a part of that is recognizing the diversity of the employees who work for these companies.
Several of us here at Zenefits knew that the limited gender options in our product fell short when it came to enabling people to be able to fully express themselves in an authentic way. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know that many people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others. We want to help make that a little easier.
This last month, as part of a Zenefits Hackathon project,  I partnered with several Zenefits colleagues from different departments who shared the same vision of inclusion. Together, we brainstormed how we could do better. We knew that expanding gender options in Zenefits was a little more difficult given so many other products and systems that Zenefits connects to limit gender options to the binary “Male” and “Female.” But, over the course of three days, we rebuilt our system to allow for a multitude of gender identities while simultaneously retaining the ability to synchronize data with other, more gender-restrictive systems outside of Zenefits.
While legal gender is still required for insurance purposes and other HR systems, we have added the option for employees to select additional gender choices if they desire. Any employee at any company can now log in to their Zenefits account to add a custom gender identity, and the personal pronouns that they would like their colleagues to use to refer to them.
We have renamed the old “Gender” field to “Legal Gender” in order to retain the ability to connect to older, more outdated HR systems. Within a company’s profile in Zenefits, the personal pronouns are displayed anywhere the employee’s public profile is visible—making it easy for employees to look up a colleague on the Employee Directory and know what pronouns to use without having to make any assumptions.
For me, this is incredibly exciting. In all of the queer spaces I’ve been a part of, a common practice to make the space more inclusive and welcoming to trans, genderqueer and/or non-binary folks is to start introductions with your name and your personal pronouns. By building this into Zenefits, we are not making assumptions about people’s identities solely based on how they look or present themselves. The Employee Directory is the business equivalent of those introductions, so it’s awesome to give all employees the ability to include their pronouns in their introductions.
In addition to expanding our gender options, we also poured over the entirety of our code and made sure we are using gender-neutral language across the board. This mostly involved making sure we are using the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them/their” instead of “he/she.” As a result, our product is more inclusive of all folks regardless of gender identity.
Finally, we have updated all of the emails we send to be certain that we are using an employee’s preferred name wherever possible. When we ask an employee what they would like to be called, we would like to be sure that we actually call them by that name. Many people already go by nicknames, but for trans-individuals and folks whose gender and name are not the same as what’s recorded with the government, it can be particularly significant.
We were in-part inspired by Brielle Harrison, a Facebook software engineer, who summed up the importance of this kind of change when she changed gender options in Facebook’s platform. She said,
“There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world.”
Although users may not notice this change to the personal information page, the subtle addition makes a huge difference for those who may have felt excluded by the previous options.
To start using our more inclusive features today, log into your account, go to “Personal Info” to enter your gender identity and personal pronouns, whatever they may be!
 A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.
Our Hackathon team received an honorable mention at the March 2016 Zenefits Hackathon for their hard work and commitment to inclusion and diversity.