Gender Inclusion at Focusmate

We want people of every gender to feel welcome on Focusmate. 

While the Focusmate community is an exceptionally safe and supportive one, the broader Internet (and world) is not. Oftentimes, women receive unwanted attention from men, and trans and gender diverse people experience harassment and violence.

Many Focusmate community members, especially women, said that they wanted better tools to protect themselves.

Our intention has been to collaborate with and be guided by you, our community. In the last few months, we’ve spoken with numerous trans and gender diverse members, who have shaped everything from designs to copywriting. This was truly a team effort—thank you.

Today we are introducing the ability to choose which genders you feel safe working with.

Please let us know what you think so far! We will continue to make Focusmate more inclusive.

Table of Contents:

  1. Set a gender preference
  2. Our principles for gender inclusion
  3. Share your feedback
  4. Glossary of gender terms

Set a gender preference

To set a gender preference, go to Settings >> Partner Preferences

To set your gender without setting a preference, go to Settings >> Account.

Our principles for gender inclusion

We developed gender preferences with the help of many people, including Jill Binder, Founder of Diverse in Tech, and Tim MacGougan, Chief Product Officer at Hinge, a leading dating app, to leverage their deep expertise in this area. We spoke to numerous community members as well, including Sheila Athens, Paula B, Carey Davenport, Elaine Gee-Wong, Bashar Jabbour, Dylan Parry Jones, Inga Reichelt, and many more. Thank you!!

We each define our own gender

What it means: According to GLAAD, “gender identity is a person’s internal, deeply held sense of their gender,” and we agree. We strive to give you full control over how you define your gender on Focusmate.

One of Focusmate’s strengths is our diverse community. We are committed to making sure that trans and non-binary people feel welcome here and know that their gender will be respected.

In practice: If you decide to set your gender, you can select from a list that includes transgender, cisgender, and non-binary, in addition to woman and man. You can also write in your gender.

We each decide if and how we want to share our gender

What it means: On Focusmate, setting your gender will always be optional. We will explain how your gender will be used, and give you the information you need to decide whether you want to share it.

In practice: By setting your gender, you help us find partners for people who want to choose which genders to work with. It also enables you to make this choice yourself. Your gender will not appear on your profile, but your partners will know that your gender matched their settings.

Gender inclusion requires representation and empowerment

What it means: To build a gender inclusive product, we need gender diversity represented in user feedback and in our staff. And, inclusion requires not only representation but empowerment—spaces, culture, and processes that uplift diverse voices.

In practice: Over the last several months, we’ve spoken with people of many different genders to understand their needs, to give feedback on our possible solutions, and to review our designs and copywriting.

In addition, as we grow our team, we’re committed to building a team that continues to represent the diversity of our community.

Together we are the foundation

It’s up to each of us to uphold a vision of a Focusmate community where everyone belongs and feels safe. We do that through every choice we make: to be kind, accepting, and supportive to one another every single day. (Please read our community guidelines.)

Share your feedback

This is just the start. We aim to continuously improve. To that end, we’d love to hear from you: What do you think so far? What is and isn’t working? How can we make Focusmate more inclusive for you?

Please email us at with your feedback.

Glossary of gender terms

Below, we’ve defined the gender terms we use on our site, so that you know what we mean when we use them.

  • Trans and Transgender. An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. [GLAAD]
  • Cis and Cisgender. A person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. [Human Rights Campaign]
  • Non-binary and/or genderqueer. Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as non-binary and/or genderqueer. [GLAAD]

17 thoughts on “Gender Inclusion at Focusmate”

  1. Robyn L Stewardson

    I love that this is considered and that you are up for inclusivity.

    I am disappointed that my choices as a woman were only everyone or women and non-binary people only.
    I am not sure why I was not given the option of men only, or men and non-binary. To me this indicates that not every choice is catered to, and I feel this needs review.

  2. Hi Robyn — thanks for sharing your thoughts! In our user research, we hadn’t come across this need, but are definitely open to adding this option. Up for talking about what options would be best for you? If you email, we can set up some time to talk. (Or just have an email conversation about it.)

  3. I am so glad to see Focusmate prioritizing such product developments that help make diverse groups (especially marginalized ones) feel safer while working on the platform .
    This move is sure to help make FM an ever kinder, safer and more supportive community than it already is .
    Keep it up, Focusmate !!!

  4. Robyn has a point. It’s not just common sense, but a sense of fairness and balance to offer all options. Sorry to say it seems like you’re being sensitive to the squeakiest wheels.

    I could give a rat’s @ss what genitalia someone has — or whether they have any at all. As President Obama would say, it seems like “silly season.”

    1. Taylor Jacobson

      Hi Robert, thanks for the feedback. It is well taken. We’ll start here and learn and get better/do better over time.

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  6. I know you want to be political correct and I appreciate it. But tbh I don’t understand the need to define my gender. Neither am I interested in my focus mate’s gender identity either. Why would it matter? Why do we need to make this a defining character to decide if we wanted to work with them or not? To me it implies the following: A person with gender “X” (fill in whatever) might have habits that I am not comfortable working with. I am not sure(!!), but I wonder if that is not some sort of discrimination? Next would be: I dont want to work with anyone identifying themselves as Asian or 50+ Why do we need to think in those small categories?
    If I am not comfortable with someone I can leave the room or block or report someone but categorical exclusion of a specific (most likely of male gender) ?
    I am happy to advise I am wrong and happy to listen to explanations anyone has.
    Thanks for reading!

    1. Taylor Jacobson

      Hi Jane, thanks for your comment. Our view is that protecting vulnerable populations is not the same as discrimination, but that protecting vulnerable populations fosters a healthy environment for everyone. If you prefer not to list your gender, you don’t have to, and you’ll continue to be matched with others who are open to matching with everyone!

  7. Hi there – I just signed up for Focusmate as a paid member and my sessions have been great. I did have one concern that I wanted to address: Not being matched for a pre-scheduled session. I think pre-scheduled sessions are more effective so I did schedule one. And absolutely no one matched with me after 4 hours though I saw folks on there for my scheduled time. My picture is on there, I am an African-American woman. The sessions I have completed I joined within 5 to 10 minutes. I really want to pre-schedule sessions because I think that will give me more accountability, but I’m concerned about having folks not match and wonder if it’s due to my race. I guess my question for you is do you have any metrics about this, about don’t match rates? I read earlier on the site that this can happen though it’s rare. I will try pre-scheduling sessions again because I think that’s the best way for me to use this tool. I will look at my settings and see if changing my partner preferences to all women will help.

    I wish the company well and I think Focusmate is a very good product.

    1. Taylor Jacobson

      Hi Theresa, I’m so sorry for responding so slowly. Are you still having this issue? It’s actually not possible for people to choose their partner (except gender), so I’m not sure how folks would do this. We also have a very diverse community, so I imagine and really hope this isn’t what’s happening. But, I also don’t want to diminish your experience, which does sound troubling! If you’re still having trouble getting matched up, please email and we’ll dig into this and get to the bottom of it.

  8. Echoing Robyn’s comment, I’m also really disappointed that my only choices as a woman are to include people who are “women and non-binary people” or “everyone.” Why do men get to decide to match with only other men but women don’t get to do the same with other women? Why am I as a woman grouped with people who aren’t of my gender but men aren’t? As a woman I don’t relate any more to nonbinary people than I do to men… They’re both not my gender, so I don’t understand why things always have to be “women _and everyone else who isn’t a man_”/”women+” and “men,” as if “men” is some default or men as a group are somehow inherently less accepting of nonbinary people and women, trans or not, are… the opposite. It’s also interesting that if I specify that if I’m not cis but rather a trans woman that I’m given so many options including not being matched with cis women. ???? I’ll likely use this site regardless but I did have to echo others in saying that I don’t like these options at all. It’s not inclusion to me. It’s cringey.

    Robyn wrote her comment back in January… it’s heading towards June now. Will anything be done?

    1. Taylor Jacobson

      Thanks for the feedback Roo. In short, it’s well taken and we do plan to update this feature. Really appreciate your patience!

  9. Re inclusion: I appreciate, and strongly support, focusmate’s policy of inclusion. At the same time, I caution that setting ‘preferences ‘ for specific groups, also means potentially excluding other groups of participants. This can easily foster discriminatory practices. If you set preferences for gender, for example, what keeps you from setting preferences that are based on nationality, race, age, religion, political persuasion etc? I think focusmates’ (as the name says) primary purpose is to help its members focus on doing their essential deep work. It is a work platform.
    BTW, for me, during every session, the element of surprise and curiosity in who my next focus work partner is, is refreshing and makes the experience not just productive but interesting and varied. Keep it open.

    1. Taylor Jacobson

      Thank you Anne. We definitely don’t claim to have the “final” or “best” answer here and we’ll continue to learn and explore how best to do this.

  10. Thank you so much for including partner preferences. I’d been avoiding signing up for a session even though I’d had an account for a while, but as a cis-hetero-woman, I felt safer being able to partner up with everyone except men. It’s a great feature, and I fully it.

  11. I will go against what most have to say here and say that the reason I am comfortable using focusmate as a woman is because you have added this option.
    I love that I don’t even want to have to worry about getting a male looking for more when I’m just trying to be productive.
    It’s just nice to feel safe.

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