Filling out paperwork is annoying enough without feeling like you're being discriminated against in the process. While many people may not feel any bias in being required to check the male or female box when filling out forms, those who identify outside of those two boxes certainly do.
Human rights activist Christin Scarlett Milloy argues that gender should be designated as "not a required field" in order to respect those who do not identity as simply male or female. It's an issue many of us probably don't give much thought to, but that transgender and genderqeer persons who don't have an appropriate selection between just M and F face on a regular basis.
Milloy notes that on some forms, such as government or bank documents, it can be a crime to submit false information. Not only is this policy discriminatory, but it can be inaccurate. To better understand both the human rights solution and the practicality behind making gender a non-required filed, Milloy tackles the issue as it relates to marketing.
Companies use collected information to segment consumers into a particular marketing demographic. For many industries, a person's gender is considered to be valuable and necessary information. At Slate, Milloy makes an excellent case against that notion.
First, that customers who value their privacy generally give only the minimum information required to begin with and will likely opt out of marketing communications anyway.
These consumers are defined by their tendency not to respond favorably to direct marketing, and after receiving your campaign, they will commonly exercise their right to opt out of future communications. By omitting these people from your gender-segmented campaigns, you are saving on postage without harming your response rate at all—in fact, your response rate percentage will rise, and so will your return on investment.
Second, that transgender and gender-variant consumers might resent being forced to select an incorrect gender—thereby not favoring themselves towards your brand. In addition, companies are essentially incorrectly classifying these consumers making, the collected marking information less useful.
Such consumers will either decline to enroll in your program, in which case you lose out on the consumer record entirely, or they will begrudgingly select a gender designation that does not accurately reflect their identity. In addition to generating ill will toward your brand, this leads to wasted expenditure, because you're including people in your gender-segmented direct marketing campaigns who will not respond favorably. By treating gender as an optional field, you will capture additional consumers whom you had missed previously.
Another excellent bonus is that companies who make gender a non-required field won't look like bigots within the LGBT community. I'm sold.
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