Building a More Inclusive Environment for Non-Binary People in Tech: Insights from Serge’s Journey

OLX Group Careers
OLX Group Careers Blog
9 min readMar 31, 2021


“I started this journey a long time ago. It began when I was a teenager,” says Serge, describing his life path as a non-binary individual.

“The non-binary word didn’t even exist at all 30 years ago. My journey hasn’t been easy, but I’ve grown to know myself better and understand where and how I can make a positive impact. The concepts around gender have also evolved a lot since I was a teenager.”

Now as Data Science Manager at OLX Motors, Serge sat down with us to share her/his journey as a non-binary person in tech. During our conversation, he/she gave us some great insights on how to build a better future for non-binary and transgender people in the tech industry.

Starting with the question of pronouns, when asking Serge on which one we should use, her/his answer is simple : ‘whatever is better for you’. During this article, we agreed with Serge to alternate between he and she.

We hope you find Serge’s story and insights inspiring. Let’s begin.

Define yourself better

“My journey hasn’t been about questioning my identity. It’s about knowing the subject and myself better, and ultimately understanding myself better. It’s about putting the right words on who I am,” describes Serge.

For many non-binary individuals, Serge stresses there’s always a challenge with being labeled as one particular gender growing up. This makes it difficult to find the right role models and references.

“20–30 years ago, when the setting around you didn’t embrace non-binary people at all, it was difficult to find a reference. From the moment we grow up, we try to look around for models and which one fits us,” states Serge.

“The non-binary journey hasn’t been easy. Previously, gender was considered in a very binary way with only two existing identities: being a man or being a woman. In the past 20 years, huge progresses have been made and the concept of gender has evolved a lot. But, even today, in social science, gender is still in a research and learning phase. In politics, there are a lot of discussions dealing with this topic. There’s no consensus around it, such as with civil rights for voting. This still brings a lot of discussions, and sometimes it’s contentious.”

While the journey hasn’t been easy personally for Serge, he notes that society has improved a lot, particularly in some parts of the world.

“There is much more acceptance of non-binarism. Outside of work, we don’t have the same filters. I can express myself as I wish. Wherever I go, there will be reactions from some people. Some people will accept me. Some won’t. But who cares, there are lots of people around.”

This perspective has helped Serge live freely. Along the way, she’s also received much support from his family.

Serge believes building a better future for non-binary people in tech relies on these things: Acceptance and understanding. He notes the tech space has a long way to go to overcome biases. However, there have been positive signs of progress.

Google’s AI no longer uses gender binary tags on images on people,” points out Serge.

“Once we move beyond traditional gender labels in databases, we can build a more fair, inclusive world for non-binary and trans people in tech.”

Get a seat at the table

When it comes to recruiting, the tech industry must do more to achieve true gender inclusivity. Now working in tech at OLX, Serge has learned a lot from his journey across industries and companies.

“My identity doesn’t impact me that much in society. But at work, it’s very hard to apply for a job and go through the recruitment process as a non-binary person.

“There is a lot of bias. At OLX, I’m accepted. However, in many other companies, this is not the case, ” tells Serge.

This is why Serge believes the recruitment processes are very difficult for non-binary and transgender people. And even if you do get hired, there can still be obstacles to success.

Surveys of non-binary and transgender workers reveal the depth of the issue Serge is discussing here. According to a survey, two thirds pf trans and non-binary and transgender employees hide their identity at work. They do so out of fear of discrimination.

From making the workplace gender-neutral to diversity training, there are many ways to address these issues and create a more inclusive workplace. Serge believes we all can make a positive difference.

“For people who don’t identify as nonbinary or transgender, my advice is to embrace visibility. If you have a friend who’s non-binary, don’t hesitate to invite that person to events. That person wants recognition. Put them forward and make them more visible. They deserve a seat at the table, not just in tech but in all fields.”

This goes back to Serge’s thoughts on the need for role models. With greater visibility and representation, non-binary and transgender talents in tech can have positive examples to follow, establish mentor-mentee relationships, and find motivation and inspiration.

Cass Averill, a global diversity, inclusion, and equity manager, echoes what Serge is saying about visibility and recognition. To achieve true gender inclusivity, Averill stresses how important it is for trans and non-binary leaders to set an example for others.

“In my role at OLX Motors, I hope I can be that sort of positive example and help make the industry more inclusive,” adds Serge.

Remember technology is born genderless

In our discussion with Serge, we talked about AI and ethics. She emphasized how more action needs to be taken to eliminate biases in the technologies we create.

“We need to get better at detecting bias in the models we deploy in the world. Because these tools have an impact in the external world,” stresses Serge.

“For instance, even when you search online, advertising technologies analyze you using parameters such as gender or sex. Whatever page you visit and whatever you see, they will put you in a box in terms of gender. This creates difficulties for non-binary and trans people.”

For Serge, things like advertising for non-binary people have to get better.

“If I have another characteristic, such as if I’m a racial minority, I may encounter the same issue. The AI we’re deploying applies these labels to define who we are, and often it’s not fair or accurate.”

In areas like facial recognition, we must make efforts to improve gender equality and inclusivity before it’s too late. Serge states eliminating biases in data is key here.

“For example, a study from the University of Colorado proved most facial recognition software can’t identify non-binary and trans people accurately. They tested tools from IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and others,” says Serge.

To eliminate hidden bias in AI, the tools we deploy should have the ability to move behind the gender binary. Project Q is one initiative that’s making great strides here. They’re bringing the first non-binary voice to technology, showing products like Amazon’s Alexa don’t necessarily have to use a male or female voice.

As Emil Asmussen, Project Q’s Creative Lead, states, “AI is born genderless so it seems stagnant that there’s not a genderless option.”

Serge notes that all this isn’t easy work. To build the tools the right way, we have to take some tough steps and really examine the data.

“We have to build models that don’t have a historical bias,” attests Serge.

“A bias can’t be the base of learning for the model. We also must realize the trade-off that happens when we take action to avoid bias. You lose data points and use a lot of resources. But you make the data model more complex by defining what is fair. To get rid of such bias, data provenance is crucial. We need to know how data arrives at a destination, the how and the why.”

Know there are an infinite amount of flavors that define you

As a non-binary person in tech, Serge has dealt with a lot of common misconceptions. That’s why he believes in getting outside definitions and labels.

“There’s not one specific way to be non-binary. We’re all unique,” says Serge.

“For example, the question of pronouns is always brought up. When people talk with you, they usually ask if they should refer to you as male or female. Non-binary people have different views on this question, and this is actually great. In my case the answer is ‘whatever is better for you’. But that’s me and we’re all different.”

For those feeling at odds with their birth gender, there are many challenges like this during life. Serge has some powerful advice to help:

“The public debate around identity has evolved. My recommendation is to avoid being labeled by others and distance yourself from social pressure. Just be yourself.”

Within the present environment, Serge also sees both challenges and opportunities for the LGBTIQ+ community. On one hand, it looks like we’re in a more open world with respect to two or three decades ago. On the other side, we’re in a much more polarized world.

“On any subject, I get the feeling that today it needs to end with you being either against or being in favor. Because of that, the identity debate has become a strong one and there are people like me who think identity is full of innocuous labels. It’s not one thing. ”

“There are an infinite amount of flavors that define you.”

“It might be because of my scientific mindset. I don’t try to take hard stances on one side or the other. Everything doesn’t have to be black or white. There’s always nuance,” exclaims Serge.

“Always be yourself. Drop the labels.”



OLX Group Careers
OLX Group Careers Blog

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