Skip to content

Gender meaning: what is gender and gender identity?

Home   /   DE&I glossary   Gender definition

Gender definition

Gender is a social construct based on social roles and cultural characteristics that are traditionally - but not exclusively - associated with femininity and masculinity. Gender may or may not correspond to one’s sex and a person who was assigned to a particular gender at birth may not identify with such or with notions of femininity or masculinity. Psychologists, philosophers, and social activists have examined and debated the nature and evolution of gender identity. Social constructivists contend that gender identity and how it is presented are "socially constructed", that is, shaped by social and cultural factors.  

Gender identity is a person's perception of themselves as either a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, a combination of a man and a woman, a person who vacillates between those roles, or someone who does not fit into any of those categories, such as non-binary. This is distinguished from biological sex.  

The 2010 Equality Act’s concept of gender reassignment was broadened by recent employment case law. Case law has specifically held that gender reassignment can apply to those who identify as "non-binary", or as those who neither identify as male nor female, nor as "gender fluid", or as people whose gender identity is not set. Because of this, employers need to be aware that the concept of gender reassignment is fluid and that it functions on a broad spectrum, much like the idea of gender itself. 

Real-world context

  • Policies: In order to ensure HR policies are up to date, organisations should examine their internal equal opportunity and anti-harassment and bullying policies. It should be stated in policies that discrimination of any type, including gender identity-related discrimination, will not be accepted. 
  • Inclusive communication: Employers must recognise that there is a range of gender identities and that no two situations are the same. Some people might be reluctant to disclose to their supervisors or coworkers that they are considering, have undergone, or are about to undergo gender reassignment. Thus, encouraging open lines of communication can involve assuring people that they won't be condemned or treated poorly if they voice any concerns. It should be easy for managers and HR staff to talk with employees about concerns at their own pace and convenience. 
  • Training: All employees, especially managers and HR representatives, should receive training on gender identity. By providing guidance on acceptable and proper usage of pronouns and vocabulary, this course should contribute to a better understanding of gender identity. Consequently, this will encourage tactful and encouraging channels of communication by giving managers and HR personnel the assurance to handle issues as soon as they are brought up. 

Related services

To continue reading about FAIRER Consulting and our DE&I consultancy services, please see some of our related pages here:

A CTA banner to promote something.

Sub text to help promote the item. Idea would be to promote 'meet the team' here.