The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 15 percent of workers surveyed had been verbally harassed, physically attacked, and/or sexually assaulted at work because of their gender identity. Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain report reveals that one in eight workers surveyed (12 percent) reported they had been physically attacked by coworkers or customers in the last year.
Against this backdrop, employers like Genentech, Ultimate Software, and IBM are taking the lead in making workplaces safer and more inclusive for transgender employees. According to the Corporate Equality Index 2020, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies include gender-identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies.
Policies alone, however, cannot change corporate culture. Organizations that are successful at supporting transgender employees have three things in common:
- They want to be allies, not obstacles.
- They recognize the importance of education when it comes to creating a culture of respect.
- They aren’t afraid to seek input from others to become more inclusive.
Supportive companies are allies, not obstacles.
Supportive companies have a streamline process in place to guide employees through the steps of transitioning at work. This includes making necessary personnel record changes in a timely manner, making name changes on email accounts, and updating ID badge photos.
These companies also understand that not every workplace transition plan is the same. Emphasizing the importance of confidentiality, they work closely with employees to developed customized plans based on their preferences. This includes determining what transition information, if any, should be communicated to coworkers, when it should be shared, and how it should be communicated.
In addition, these companies make confidential, emotional wellbeing resources available to employees. These resources are designed to help employees prepare for major life changes, address challenges with coworkers, and manage feelings of anxiety.
Supportive companies use education to create a culture of respect.
Educating employees on the company’s inclusion policies and practices is important, but diversity training shouldn’t start and finish there. Supportive companies provide employees with multiple opportunities to learn about the importance of inclusion, the reality of unconscious bias, and the benefits of a supportive culture.
Transgender awareness training, whether stand-alone or a component of a diversity training, should include definitions of gender-expression terms, as well as a discussion on the significance of using an employee’s preferred name and pronoun. Emphasis should also be given to the topics of harassment and bullying behavior.
In supportive companies, front-line managers receive additional training to understand their obligations when an employee requests support for transitioning at work. This is critical, as direct supervisors play a key role in how departments receive and respond to the transition of a peer.
More specialized instructions are shared with select employees just prior to a coworker’s transition date. In many cases, the manager, transitioning employee, and a human resources (HR) representative work together to determine who specifically needs to be involved. In addition to reinforcing the information shared as part of the company’s general diversity training, this training includes specific details regarding when a coworker’s transition will take place, how their coworker prefers to be addressed, and what resources are available to help answer any questions they might have.
Supportive companies seek input from others to become more inclusive.
Companies like IBM have created internal LGBT-resource groups and councils to foster workplace inclusivity and guide diversity practices. Others have reached out to third-party organizations like the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Transgender Training Institute for information on how to best support transgender employees. These collaborations can lead to important changes, including expanded health care benefits and gender-neutral bathroom facilities.
Creating an environment that is safe and inclusive for transgender employees is not only the right thing to do, it’s also in the employer’s best interest. A workplace culture based on respect and sensitivity benefits all employees.