Six Steps towards Championing Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace
Transgender inclusion in the workplace is no longer something that can be reactively tacked onto company policies. Significant change is expected at management level and many major corporations are leading the way. But where and how does an employer begin to stitch transgender inclusion and acceptance into company culture?
The CIPD recently hosted an event on Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace. The event outlined six steps to follow in order to make your workplace more supportive of staff who intend to transition, are transitioning or who have already transitioned.
As the number of people who undergo gender reassignment is relatively small, many employers won’t experience working with a transitioning employee or it may be a one-off experience for them. This can lead to a reactive approach to creating a supportive working environment, which is essentially too late.
Employers should be creating inclusive, supportive working environments for everyone regardless of the current make-up of their population. This should include having processes in place to support and facilitate an employee’s transition in advance of them stating their intent to transition.
It’s worth noting that this is a delicate area and one that requires careful consideration in terms of fostering a culture of inclusion for all. There are some overarching considerations for an employer looking to create a more inclusive workplace for trans employees:
- One of the biggest barriers to creating an inclusive workplace is a lack of understanding and awareness among employers. This lack of understanding leads to a lack of confidence in dealing with issues and allows for stigmas to persist.
- As an employer it’s important to understand that each person’s experience of transitioning is unique to them, so your approach to supporting gender identity and intersex employees in the workplace should be flexible.
- Transphobia and prejudice in the workplace can be a daily experience and can be direct, indirect or unintentional.
- The result of employers not understanding this is that trans employees are often left to bear the burden of driving forward changes or process in the workplace.
Preparing for Tolerance
You can’t outlaw prejudice and expect it to achieve inclusion.
Employers need to prepare the ground for tolerance by creating an environment where transgender and non-transgender employees understand and accept each other.
An important point to consider is that this should not simply be a case of placing transgender inclusion on a platform and shining a light on it, this needs to be integrated into the behaviour of the organisation.
The event outlined six steps to creating a more tolerant and supportive work environment for transgender employees:
You may have someone in your company who wants to transition but is too scared to, or who already has but hasn’t declared themselves to the company. To make their journey easier, you should consider having a senior manager tasked with representing trans rights within the company. This would entail going to LGBT meetings, sending out related communications and ultimately being a visible beacon for trans inclusion in your workplace.
Part of preparing the ground for tolerance is to communicate. It’s important to consider your audience here, it’s not just members of the trans community, but your whole organisation including new and prospective employees. Everyone needs to know that transgender people are welcome, accepted and supported by your organisation.
Consider a trans person’s experience in dealing with your company. Are there any unintentional or indirect forms of prejudice occurring at any touch points, whether it’s over the phone or calling in for a meeting? Some things to consider – the correct use of pronouns, gender neutral toilets, removing gender from any communications or policies, where possible.
Prejudice can take many forms. Intentionally misusing pronouns like calling a transwoman ‘he’ or asking inappropriate questions like ‘when did you have your surgery?’ or even social exclusion. Make sure staff are trans-aware and are empowered and encouraged to challenge prejudice immediately and appropriately. This might require training as well as communications.
Appointing a Trans-hero/Trans-ally
This role would include calling out transphobic behaviour, representing trans rights within the company, and keeping up to date on the subject matter as it is ever changing. They would also be appointed as the principal contact for a transitioning employee, meeting them early and agreeing on the process for how they’d like to manage their transition at work.
This isn’t just an exercise in shining a light on the trans community, it’s about integrating supportive behaviour so nobody feels like they are being treated differently because of who they are. This extends from a potential candidate’s interview experience right through to being comfortable and included in work-related social settings.
Forward planning, recognition of the facts and having the right knowledge is key to any inclusion and diversity initiative. Shying away from important issues is no longer tolerated. What first steps has your company taken to ensuring transgender inclusion at work?
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