First class D&I | Virgin Atlantic job applications soar after gendered uniforms axed

Virgin Atlantic job applications soar after gendered uniforms axed

Virgin Atlantic has seen job applications for crew members rise by 100% after it scrapped its gender-based uniform policy, the firm’s CEO has said.

The airline’s CEO Shai Weiss told The Telegraph: “We saw a 100 per cent uplift in applicants following the campaign, ‘See the world differently’.”

The firm launched its updated gender identity policy in September 2022, giving its crew, pilots and ground team the option to choose which of its iconic uniforms best represents them – no matter their gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

Reflecting the diversity of the workforce, the airline announced it would offer its people a fluid approach to its Vivienne Westwood-designed red and burgundy uniforms, meaning LGBT+ colleagues could choose either the red or the burgundy uniform, depending on which best reflects themselves.

The announcement was part of an on-going drive to champion the individuality of Virgin Atlantic’s workforce, and the initiative was complemented by the roll out of optional pronoun badges for all its people and those travelling with the airline.

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Mandatory inclusivity training was also rolled out for its people at all levels across Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays as well as a series of inclusivity learning initiatives for tourism partners and hotels within destinations such as the Caribbean to ensure all our customers feel welcome despite barriers to LGBT+ equality.

Launched as part of its ‘Be Yourself’ agenda, the airline has previously unveiled a series of industry-leading inclusivity initiatives for its people to ensure they can truly be themselves at work and feel comfortable in their roles. This latest addition follows a decision in 2019 to offer cabin crew the choice whether to wear make-up as well as the option to wear trousers and flat shoes. More recently the airline lifted restrictions around allowing visible tattoos for crew members and its frontline workers.

The airline’s initiatives also include an update of its existing trans inclusion policies, which already allows time off for medical treatments related to gender transition, personal choice of changing & shower facilities that align with the gender a person identifies as and co-creation of a personalised transitioning plan.

‘Embrace your individuality’

At the time of the announcement, Jamie Forsstroem, a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member, said: “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.”

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Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Commercial Officer, added: “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.”

Diversity, inclusion and the impact on the workforce

Virgin Atlantic’s announcement comes as research - conducted by 3Gem on behalf of the airline - finds that enabling employees to express their true selves at work boosts happiness (65%), increases mental wellbeing (49%), creates a more positive workplace culture (36%) and provides a better experience for customers (24%). Employees also reported feeling more accepted and comfortable when able to be their true selves at work (26%) and an increased sense of loyalty to their employer (21%).

Despite these positive benefits, 25% of Brits have felt pressure to hide their true selves at work, with 13% feeling uncomfortable making requests that enable them to express who they really are. Brits have dressed differently (30%) or in clothing they aren’t comfortable in (15%), changed the way they style their hair or makeup (22%) and covered up parts of their personality (38%) all in an attempt to fit in.

Furthermore, 2019 data from Limeade Institute found that, when employees feel included at work, they are 28% more engaged and three times more likely to stay within the organisation.

Inclusivity can also have an impact on productivity. If employees are included at work and free to be themselves, then it is possible that they will feel happier. And, according to joint research from BT and Oxford University's Saïd Business School, workers are 13% more productive when happy.

Additionally, an inclusive working environment can also help with an organisation’s recruitment and attraction strategy. For example, a Deloitte study recently found that 80% of more than 1,300 respondents said that inclusion efforts were a crucial factor for them when choosing a company.

Therefore, there are quite a few benefits on a business level when it comes to championing diversity and inclusivity by relaxing gender-restrictive policies.

Image - ©2022 Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.

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