Transgender Employee Inclusivity: Can Your Organization Do Better?

transgender workplace inclusivity
Transgender employees face a lot of discrimination at work. Learn how your organization can become more inclusive.

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Recently, we received exciting news that my work on creating more trans-inclusive workplaces, published in Harvard Business Review, was featured in a new McKinsey report. We are all about making a positive impact in society through data-driven insights. So, it’s always nice to see the research we do getting out to leaders and employees. That’s especially true when the research aims to improve working conditions for marginalized employees. Transgender employees face intense discrimination at work. In one of our studies, we found that 47% of transgender employees face workplace discrimination daily. Organizations need to do better!

This week is Transgender Awareness Week. So, we thought we would spotlight the research I’ve been doing to help promote transgender inclusion at work. At this point, I have interviewed and surveyed thousands of transgender employees about their work experiences and needs. Most recently, I’ve been exploring how cisgender people (like Patricia and I) can best show allyship to transgender employees. Below we provide some tips that can help your workplace to improve!

Adopt Basic Transgender Inclusive Policies

First, we found that transgender employees need to have structural support from their organizations. Work environments should operate the same way for transgender folks as they do for cisgender folks. They should be able to use the restroom and choose their clothing without fear of retribution. Clear policies can help with this. This means that they organizations should have policies ensuring access to the bathroom of employees’ choosing. Dress codes should outline what professional attire looks like. But, they shouldn’t limit who can wear certain types of professional clothing.

Further, having a policy that ensures employees place pronouns in their email signatures can help. If you have name badges, including pronouns on those is also useful. This way, transgender employees don’t have to feel out of place providing their pronouns, when others aren’t. Training employees about the importance of proper pronoun usage can also help. Finally, making sure that HR keeps accurate track of names and pronouns of employees can also be helpful. When transgender employees transition at work, having an old name stored in their employer’s records can increase the likelihood that folks will use that name by mistake.

We need to ensure our workplaces are equitable for transgender employees. This means challenging antiquated ways of thinking about gender at work.
We need to ensure our workplaces are equitable for transgender employees. This means challenging antiquated ways of thinking about gender at work.

Be Supportive of Gender Transitions

When transgender employees transition from their gender assigned at birth, they need support. This can come in many forms. Our research shows that employees who transition only experience positive benefits of being authentic if their coworkers accept them for who they are. If not, their job attitudes are negatively impacted. So, it’s important that employers help transgender employees to feel comfortable and accepted during and after the transition process.

We found that transgender employees reported that managers should simply ask what they need to feel safe and happy. When managers asked how they could support a transition, it went a long way in creating a plan that was safe and supported well-being. HR can also provide resources for trans support groups where other folks might share their experiences with transition. HR might also help with creating flexible scheduling and covering health costs if the employee is undergoing any medical procedures. Overall, transitioning can be challenging for transgender employees. It’s important to show your support verbally, and to back it up with action.

Transgender employees should be fully supported and accepted at work.
Transgender employees should be fully supported and accepted at work.

Stand Up for Transgender Rights at Work

Some of my newer research is focused on how cisgender people might stand up for the rights of transgender people at work. We found that cisgender people can do so in a few ways. First, they can advocate for better policies and practices. Second, they can defend transgender employees in the face of bias, discrimination, or harm. Third, they can educate other cisgender people about how to be more inclusive. Of course, in non-inclusive work environments, these behaviors can be risky.

When cisgender people engage in these activities, it sends a message to transgender employees that their well-being is worth taking that risk. This boosts self-esteem and job satisfaction, while decreasing emotional exhaustion. So, if you know that your workplace can do better, try to push for change! There is one caveat though. Brand new data that we just collected suggests that your acts can have negative consequences if you approach allyship from an egoistic perspective. A dose of humility goes a long way in ensuring your actions are well-informed and well-received! We have talked about the importance of demonstrating courage at work before. Hopefully this article helps to inspire you to do more to create transgender inclusive workplaces!

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