IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Spark NZ launches Beyond Binary Code for gender inclusion
Fri, 25th Feb 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Spark NZ has launched a new tool intended to promote visibility and inclusion for non-binary communities online.

OutLine Aotearoa worked closely with non-binary communities in creating the Beyond Binary Code.

Firstly, a company will need to be assisted in understanding whether it needs to collect gender-related data and, if so, what to collect, and how to collect it inclusively.

If a company decides it does need to collect gender data, the Beyond Binary Code creates a 'copy and paste' HTML code which Spark adds is straightforward and easy to use.

Once the code is implemented, the company's online forms will include options specific to their use cases, such as name and legal name, pronouns, prefixes, and a range of gender options that acknowledge gender diverse communities such as non-binary and takatāpui. There will also be an open field for individuals to enter their own, or if they would rather not say.

"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," Spark New Zealand CEO Jolie Hodson says.

"Our new Beyond Binary Code [provides] 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," Hodson says.

A survey of non-binary participants conducted by Spark and OutLine Aotearoa found that more than 84% of respondents felt often or always misrepresented when sharing their gender information online with a business or organisation.

"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," Labour Party Rainbow Caucus Chair and MP for Northcote, Shanan Halbert says.

"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," Halbert adds.

The survey also found 89% of respondents would be more likely to repurchase from a business that offers a positive experience when collecting gender data.

The same respondents would also be more likely to engage with a company and feel their needs are being met if it is actively improving its data processing systems to be more gender-inclusive.

In contrast, 51% of respondents said they wouldn't recommend a business to a friend if they felt it had misrepresented them.

In addition to 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.

Furthermore, Spark says the code uses best practices collected from a range of reputable sources such as the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and Te Ngākau Kahukura.

"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," non-binary takatāpui creative and advocate for rainbow communities, Quack says.

"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.

The Beyond Binary Code website also provides a toolkit of resources to assist businesses in making their workplaces more inclusive.

Spark says the resources include a downloadable guide to assist businesses in applying data privacy principles and a presentation they can use to help educate for broader company buy-in to create change within an organisation.

"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," OutLine Aotearoa General Manager Claire Black says.

"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."