Virgin Atlantic Removes Gendered Uniforms

While challenges remain at work for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer and other sexual identities) employees, some companies are working hard to provide a positive and safe work environment for employees and customers, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. One of them is Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic, the airline founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, has updated its gender identity policy to promote the individuality of Virgin Atlantic employees and promote diversity and inclusion. One of the key elements was removing the requirement for employees to wear gender-specific uniform options and offering pronoun badges for customers and employees.

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Research shows that three in 20 LGBTQ+ women believe their sexual orientation will negatively impact their career advancement. For LGBTQ+ men, that number is even higher, at six in 20. Data conducted by 3Gem on behalf of Virgin Atlantic in September 2022 across the UK shows that allowing employees to embrace their individuality at work increases mental well-being (49%) and a sense of satisfaction (65%) and creates a better experience for employees and customers (24%).

The policy, introduced as part of the Be Yourself agenda, allows them to wear clothing that expresses how they identify or present themselves, regardless of their gender, gender identity or gender expression. To reflect the diversity of the workforce and promote inclusion, Virgin Atlantic colleagues can choose either the red or burgundy uniform, depending on which reflects them best and whether they are wearing makeup, trousers, flats and even visible clothing tattoos.

They also introduced optional pronoun badges for all employees and those traveling on the airline. This step allows everyone to communicate clearly and be addressed with their pronouns. Badges have been available to teams and customers since September 28thth. The ticketing systems have also been updated to allow holders of passports with gender-neutral gender tags to select the gender code ‘U’ or ‘X’ and the gender-neutral title ‘Mx’ when making their booking. Currently, citizens of countries such as the US, India and Pakistan can hold these passports and travelers must travel using the codes that match their passports.

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The airline also offers mandatory inclusion training for its employees at all levels at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays, as well as a range of inclusion learning initiatives for tourism partners and hotels in destinations like the Caribbean to ensure all our customers feel welcome.

Time to review the entire employee experience

Organizations face many barriers that prevent people from feeling equal. It’s time to review the overall employee experience, especially the minority workforce experience, and identify process weaknesses. Businesses need to integrate DEI into their culture. More innovation and resilience to change are possible in a company where the differences of employees are respected and ideas can be freely expressed. To keep minorities in the organization, DEI must influence the behavior of individuals and teams and be embedded throughout the employee experience: recruiting, hiring, onboarding, engagement, performance, development, even in the exit process, also considering the impact on customers, partners and the community.

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