Effective today, the British carrier Virgin Atlantic has updated its gender identity policy so that the airline’s front-line employees are no longer required to wear gendered uniforms. Virgin Atlantic’s new gender policy also envisages changes in the ticketing system to account for passport holders with gender-neutral gender markers, as well as introducing mandatory inclusivity training for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holiday staff. Let’s look closely at this unique and novel airline’s gender policy.
Virgin Atlantic crew to choose the uniform that best represents themselves
According to Virgin Atlantic’s brand new gender identity policy, the airline’s staff, including pilots, cabin crew, and the ground team, will be able to choose which of the stylish red and burgundy uniforms, designed by Vivienne Westwood, best represent their gender identity and expression.
In recognizing and welcoming the diversity that characterizes its workforce, Virgin Atlantic places itself as the most inclusive airline in the world. Starting today, Virgin Atlantic’s LGBTQ+ employees will no longer have to stick to pre-determined uniform options, the relevance of which has been highlighted by Jaime Forsstroem, Cabin Crew at Virgin Atlantic, who stated:
“The updated gender identity policy is so important to me. As a non-binary person, it allows me to be myself at work and have the choice in what uniform I wear.”
Virgin Atlantic is at the forefront of a progressive and liberal gender identity policy in the airline industry. As part of its “Be Yourself” agenda, the airline had already started developing a series of industry-leading inclusivity initiatives to ensure its people feel accepted and welcomed by their employer, regardless of their gender identity. For instance, in 2019, Virgin Atlantic rendered make-up optional and introduced the choice of wearing trousers and flat shoes. Recently, the airline has also lifted the ban on visible tattoos for crew members and front-line employees.
As of today, Virgin Atlantic employees will be free to choose which uniform to wear to best represent their gender identity. Photo: Virgin Atlantic
Not just gender-neutral uniforms
Virgin Atlantic is really going the extra mile to let not just its employees but its customers as well be free to express their true selves.
Indeed, the new gender policy envisages optional pronoun badges that are made available to the flying crew, ground team, and customers as well. This way, both Virgin Atlantic’s employees and those who fly with the airline will be addressed by the pronoun that best reflects their gender identity. These badges are available starting today, and customers who want one just need to ask for their preferred one at the check-in desk or in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
To allow its employees and customers to be addressed by the pronoun that best represents their gender identity, Virgin Atlantic has introduced these pronoun badges. All passengers can ask for one at the check-in desk or at Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse. Photo: Virgin Atlantic
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic’s ticketing system has been amended to allow passport holders with gender-neutral gender markers to select “U” or “X” gender codes on their bookings, as well as the gender-neutral title “Mx”. For the time being, citizens from just a small number of countries, including the USA, India, and Pakistan, hold these gender-inclusive passports. However, in the optic of passports with gender-neutral gender markers progressively being made available, the airline is implementing a long-term plan to amend communication preferences, thus enabling customers to be addressed by their preferred pronouns across all touchpoints.
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays employees at all levels will undergo mandatory inclusivity training. At the same time, training initiatives will also be provided for tourism partners and hotels at destinations such as the Caribbean so that customers will feel welcomed whenever they use a Virgin Atlantic branded service.
Last but not least, the new gender policy enhances the already existing trans inclusion policy, which allows Virgin Atlantic employees to take time off for medical treatments related to gender transition, personal choice of changing & shower facilities, in line with the gender employees identify themselves with, and the possibility to co-create a personalized transitioning plan.
On the occasion, Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Commercial Officer, commented:
“At Virgin Atlantic, we believe that everyone can take on the world, no matter who they are. That’s why it’s so important that we enable our people to embrace their individuality and be their true selves at work. It is for that reason that we want to allow our people to wear the uniform that best suits them and how they identify and ensure our customers are addressed by their preferred pronouns.”
Virgin Atlantic’s gender-inclusive policy believes in the importance of its employees embracing their authentic selves at work; a way to do so is by choosing the uniform that best matches their personality and gender identity. Photo: Virgin Atlantic
The rationale for the new gender-policy
Virgin Atlantic’s new liberal gender policy lays its foundation in the research results regarding the benefits of gender-inclusive policies in the workplace.
According to research, company policies that enable their staff to embrace their gender identity in the workplace increase mental well-being (49%), feeling of happiness (65%), create a more positive workplace culture (36%) and enhance the experience of both employees and staff (24%). Additionally, employees also report feeling more accepted if they can be their authentic selves at work (26%), while the sense of loyalty to the employer is also enhanced (21%).
According to research, gender-inclusive policies significantly impact the well-being of employees in the workplace. This is particularly relevant in the UK, where 25% of Brits have felt pressured to hide their true selves. Photo: Virgin Atlantic
Being a British employer, the news of the gender-neutral policy has been positively welcomed by the Brits; the research indeed found out that 25% of British people have felt pressured to hide their gender identity at work, with 13% feeling uncomfortable when making requests to the employer to be allowed to express who they really are in the workplace. Consequently, 30% of the Brits have dressed differently, while 15% have worn clothing in which they are not comfortable; 22% of the participants have also stated they have changed the way they style their hair, while 38% of them have covered up parts of their personality in the attempt to fit in.
In line with the research outcome, Michelle Visage, who took part in the fashion shoot to showcase Virgin Atlantic’s new gender policy, commented on how the changes brought about by the British carrier can really make a difference not just to the airline’s employees, but to the entire community as well:
“As the mother of a non-binary child, and as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, these efforts by Virgin Atlantic to further inclusivity for its people are extremely important and personal to me. People feel empowered when they are wearing what best represents them, and this gender identity policy allows people to embrace who they are and bring their full selves to work.”
Michelle Visage has teamed up with Virgin Atlantic to showcase the new policy in a stylized fashion shoot. Photo: Virgin Atlantic
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