Yelp is rolling out the ability to see if restaurants and other businesses have gender-neutral bathrooms. In the next couple of weeks, people will also be able to search for businesses on Yelp that have gender-neutral restrooms. To be clear, gender-neutral bathrooms are single-stall bathrooms that lock and are accessible to all genders.
In order for this to work, Yelp will start asking people who check into a business or review it if they offer gender-neutral bathrooms. Business owners on Yelp will also be able to edit their profiles to indicate they have gender-neutral restrooms. Given that Yelp is relying on users and business owners to submit this information, it might take a while before the tool is reaches its full capabilities. In the meantime, those looking to find gender-neutral bathrooms can utilize REFUGE Restrooms, an open-source database “that seeks to provide safe restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals.”
Yelp’s new feature comes shortly after the Trump administration rescinded protective guidance for transgender students. Just yesterday, Yelp, along with 52 other tech companies, joined an amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy who filed a lawsuit against his school board for denying him the use of the boy’s bathroom. Rachel Williams, Yelp’s head of diversity and inclusion, says the product feature is a direct response to recent events.
“In response to the news of the last few days — and I’m super proud that the head of diversity and inclusion had nothing to do with it — people in this company were so incensed by what’s going on in our country, and to potential employees and customers, that they wanted to do something to support,” Williams told me. “The product team got it done within a couple of days. They dropped everything to add this feature. I’m overjoyed and proud.”
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As Williams mentioned, she had nothing to do with the idea nor the development of the product. Even though there are no LGBTQIA people on the product team, they drove this initiative, which included reaching out to Yelp’s LGBTQIA employee resource group and the Human Rights Campaign, and “opted to drop revenue-generating product features,” she said with a laugh. She added that she was pleased she didn’t have to do “finger-wagging or anything like that.”
Williams said she had a similar experience with Yelp’s involvement in the amicus brief.
“I have ongoing group texts that are very annoying but necessary with other diversity leaders,” Williams said. “When we heard about [the amicus brief] we were like, ‘we’re doing this, right? Right?!?'” Williams relayed to me, chuckling. But by the time Williams got in touch with Yelp’s legal team, they said they were already on it.
“The culture is changing,” Williams said. “That is what the big indicator is. Rightly or wrongly, this new administration has galvanized the folks. People are excited and fired up.”