Most of the internet sees only two genders – male and female – leaving entire communities invisible online. Spark’s Beyond Binary Code aims to change that.
Co-created with OutLine Aotearoa and non-binary communities, the Beyond Binary Codeis a simple online tool that builds a ‘copy and paste’ HTML code after helping businesses evaluate whether gender-related data needs to be captured at all, what to capture if it’s required, and how they might do this in a way that enables people of all genders to be seen and heard online.
In a new gender data survey of non-binary participants conducted by Spark in partnership with OutLine Aotearoa, over 84% of respondents felt often or always misrepresented when sharing their gender information online with a business or organisation.
Spark New Zealand CEO Jolie Hodson says: “Data can play a valuable role in helping businesses to better serve the needs of their customers. But for Kiwis who are beyond the gender binary of male and female, when that data isn’t collected or used correctly it can create deeply negative experiences on a daily basis.
“At Spark we have an ambition to help individuals and organisations have a better relationship with their data, and to champion diversity and inclusion within Spark and Aotearoa. Our new Beyond Binary Code combines these objectives by providing businesses with a trusted source to improve their gender data collection practices and in turn help them build more inclusive, gender-friendly online experiences for their employees and customers.
“Ultimately, through publishing the code, we hope to encourage digital equity at an enterprise level – influencing big data systems in businesses to help people from all genders feel valued and visible online and in time, build an internet with richer, more sophisticated datascapes that represent the diversity of Aotearoa.”
If a business determines they need to collect gender data, once they implement the code, its online forms will include options specific to their use cases such as name and legal name, pronouns, prefixes, and a variety of gender options that acknowledge gender diverse communities including non-binary and takatāpui as well as an open field for individuals to enter their own, or if they would rather not say.
Labour Party Rainbow Caucus Chair and MP for Northcote, Shanan Halbert says: “We’ve been taking important steps forward in Aotearoa to affirm authentic identity in everyday lives, including simplifying the process to change the gender recorded on official documents to reflect how a person identifies. I welcome Spark’s Beyond Binary Code which will now enable New Zealanders to use the pronouns and gender options that best represent them in the online world as well.
"Fundamentally this is about respecting people for who they know themselves to be and giving businesses the tools to recognise this when they interact with their customers. Building more inclusive working environments is a priority for the government and it is great to see a major New Zealand corporate also getting on board with this Kaupapa.”
Alongside input from OutLine Aotearoa and non-binary communities, the recommendations generated by Beyond Binary Code are informed by Statistics New Zealand’s updated standards on how data related to gender, sex and variations of sex characteristics should be collected, and best practices from a range of reputable sources including the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and Te Ngākau Kahukura.
In addition to the HTML code, the Beyond Binary Code website also provides businesses with a toolkit of resources that supports them on their journey towards an inclusive workplace. These include a downloadable guide to help businesses apply data privacy principles and a presentation they can use to help educate for broader company buy-in to create change within an organisation.
The survey by Spark and OutLine Aotearoa also found that if a company committed to improving data processing systems to be more gender inclusive, individuals from gender-diverse communities would be more likely to feel their needs are being met and more likely to engage with the business – with 89% saying they would be more likely to repurchase from businesses who offer a positive experience when collecting gender data.
However, for businesses they felt had misrepresented them, around half of respondents (51%) said they wouldn’t recommend the company to a friend.
Quack, a non-binary takatāpui creative and advocate for rainbow communities shares this sentiment, adding: “I think what’s really important to recognise is how such a small action like including they/them pronouns can make a huge impact to someone like me. I feel seen and respected. It shows me this company doesn’t just want my money, but genuinely holds a space for me.
“I’ve often been asked why I feel like I need a checkbox that I can identify with. And it’s not so much that the checkbox is going to be the make or break of my identity – my identity is a lot stronger than that, but the constant reminder of feeling like you don’t have a place, like there isn’t an option for you to select, makes me feel whakamā.
“I understand that I'm a minority, but that doesn't mean I deserve any less respect, or any less thought should go into representing people like me. I hope businesses take this on board and create meaningful change with the use of the Beyond Binary Code,” Quack says.
Outline Aotearoa General Manager, Claire Black says: “Often businesses default to asking for gender without considering why they need that information and how it might impact the people on the other end of the form. When trans and non-binary people are excluded, misgendered, or discriminated against during daily interactions with businesses, that contributes to an environment that is hostile to their wellbeing.
“OutLine sees this Code, and its supporting resources, as a catalyst for creating better experiences that support and affirm the wellbeing of both non-binary people and Rainbow communities more broadly in Aotearoa.”
For more information and to gain access to the code and toolkit, visit www.spark.co.nz/beyondbinarycode