Many employers struggle to create trans-inclusive workplaces. They often emphasise the “LGB” more than the “TQ+.” In most cases this is due to a lack of understanding rather than deliberate discrimination, but it’s no less damaging for that.
A certain amount of confusion and uncertainty makes sense. After all, the census of England and Wales has been going for 220 years, and only in 2021 did it start counting transgender and non-binary people, those whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth. In fact, it’s still unclear just how many people there are in the UK who identify this way.
Ipsos polling from 2020 suggested that 3.1% of people identify as trans, non-binary, genderqueer, or gender fluid. The census suggests it could be 0.5% – although since 3.6 million people chose not to answer this question on the census, the real number may well be higher.
What is clear is that trans employees experience extraordinarily high rates of discrimination, even when compared with other marginalised groups. Hostility, and even subtle pressure to “manage” their identity in the workplace, can negatively affect trans employees’ emotional well-being, job satisfaction, and willingness to stay. This means that we need to educate ourselves as the employers and colleagues of trans and non-binary people so we can make them feel accepted, appreciated, and equal.
As employers, we can foster an inclusive and respectful culture that includes trans people. Indeed, we must do this if we take trans-inclusivity seriously. This means going beyond protecting trans, nonbinary, and gender-fluid workers from discrimination and actively fostering an atmosphere at work that supports their success and well-being. This will help to create a truly accepting workplace culture for all gender identities across the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are four practical steps employers can take to create an effective trans-inclusive workplace:
Step 1: Establish formal policies that foster inclusivity
This includes, for example, formal organisational policies that allow employees to use the bathroom of their choice and require the presence of gender-neutral bathrooms.
Consider dress code policies that enable all employees to wear professional clothing of their choice, regardless of which gender they are stereotypically associated with. Ensuring employees’ names are accurately recorded in HR systems is another policy that may seem small but can have a huge impact on trans employees.
Asking all employees to provide pronouns in email signatures is an inclusive practice that demonstrates a commitment to ensuring everyone’s gender identity is respected at work.
Step 2: Cover gender transitions in employee benefits
Not all transgender individuals wish to have surgery, but many do. The costs can be prohibitive for these employees, and appropriate coverage is necessary to decrease their financial burden.
Supplying information on treatment options and providing organisational support groups for the LGBTQ+ community can help employees find the needed transition-related resources. Leaders should also model inclusive behaviours toward transitioning employees and cultivate an environment in which they feel comfortable.
By learning from transitioning employees, employers can better provide a safe environment for them and future employees as they transition.
Step 3: Provide diversity training
Not all employees will have had contact with transgender individuals in the past. For this reason, diversity training that includes trans-inclusivity content can be a huge help in fostering greater understanding and acceptance.
Hiring diversity training firms that have trans individuals on staff can help employees learn directly from members of the community. Giving employees this opportunity to learn and grow their capacity for inclusivity makes it more likely that the work environment will become actively inclusive.
Step 4: Have a formal reporting process for discrimination
Trans and non-binary employees need a formal reporting process that is responsive to their concerns. This will help to address any discrimination that does occur.
They also need support for their emotional and mental well-being. While knee-jerk solutions should never serve as a stand-alone response to discrimination, the reality is that experiencing discrimination at work is stressful.
Organisations can help alleviate that stress by providing tools to improve trans employees’ well-being after being mistreated by others. Research shows that mindfulness tools can be particularly effective in helping employees to recover more effectively from negative work experiences.
The acceptance journey starts with a single step
Of course, employers should strive to create a workplace culture that accepts and supports all gender identities. But just because it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t make it easy. It may be hard to take all four steps outlined above at once. However, even starting with one of them shows a commitment to the well-being of trans and non-binary employees that can go a long way towards improving the situation.
Let’s not forget that effective diversity and equity practices positively impact the productivity of all employees. When people feel authentic and connected with their organisations, they can achieve their full potential at work. Organisations that strive for and succeed at building truly inclusive workplaces are creating a corporate legacy that prioritises human dignity and believes employee well-being is fundamental to its success. So, take that first step, whichever one you choose. The next steps will get easier over time. The important thing to do now is start.
Sheffield Haworth is a founding member of CAMPAIGN, the first-ever LGBTQ+ networking group in Recruitment, Search, and Selection
The network aims to bring people together through sharing ideas, emotional support, and change-driven inclusivity strategies to improve the representation and inclusion of #LGBTQ+ people within the industry. To find out more about CAMPAIGN visit our website