Today, Wednesday 31 March, is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
It’s a day that aims to celebrate the successes of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities, as well as raise awareness about the need to continue to push for a world where every person — no matter their gender identity — is respected, protected, and safe.
Trans and non-binary individuals are discriminated against in every area of their lives and, unfortunately, the workplace is no exception. The shocking statistics speak for themselves.
Trans discrimination in the workplace
LGBT rights charity Stonewall’s 2020 Workplace report found that a third of trans people in the UK had been the target of negative comments or conduct from their colleagues as a result of the gender identity. One in five wouldn’t report transphobic bullying in the workplace. This was based on a survey of more than 5,000 LGBT individuals across the UK in 2017.
Fewer than half of LGBT staff surveyed said there were adequate workplace equality policies to protect trans people in the workplace and only 28% noted that senior management had demonstrated a visible commitment to trans equality.
Stonewall’s research also found that a third of trans employees were excluded by their colleagues for being LGBT and more than one in six trans individuals were not addressed with their correct name or pronoun at work. As a result of this, one in four trans people were not open at work about being trans, and the figure rose to 37% for non-binary individuals.
These figures may be specific to the UK, but stats across the pond tell a similar, and heartbreaking, story.
A 2015 survey of 27,715 trans individuals living in the United States revealed that a staggering 77% of those who held a job in the year prior took active steps to avoid mistreatment and discrimination at work, including hiding their gender identity, delaying their gender transition (or living as their true selves only outside of work), refraining from asking their employers to use their correct pronouns, or ultimately, quitting their jobs.
Some 67% reported negative outcomes such as being fired or forced to resign, not being hired, or being denied a promotion. Nearly a quarter of respondents reported other types of discrimination or mistreatment based on their gender identity or expression. For example, being asked to present as the sex assigned to them at birth to stay in a job, having private information about their trans identity shared without permission, or being denied access to WCs that align with their gender identity. None of this is OK.
Businesses need to “understand that trans and non-binary people are in your organizations — between one in 60 and one in 100 people are trans — if you can’t see them it is because your organization is not a place where they feel okay to be out. That means you will not be getting the best from those employees and more than likely lose the many advantages [of] having a truly diverse workforce,” explains Bobbi Pickard, the founder and director of Trans in the City, a trans and non-binary awareness group.
Pharma giant AstraZeneca’s senior vice-president of reward and inclusion Rebekah Martin agrees:
“Making it psychologically safe for LGBTQ+ employees at work should be a priority for companies that are striving to win the war for talent for their companies.”
Creating trans-inclusive workplaces
There is a clear need for more trans-inclusive workplaces, but how should companies go about this?
Let’s start with pronouns and trans-inclusive language. Insurance company Aviva, which was listed by Stonewall as one of the top 20 trans employers in 2020, is using this Transgender Day of Visibility to, among other things, encourage all employees to educate themselves on trans issues and add their pronouns to their email signature, which helps to “normalize sharing pronouns.” Aviva’s talent acquisition and inclusion lead Jonny Briggs notes that more and more staff have added pronouns to their email signature.
People management software HiBob recently introduced a feature that expands the pronouns an individual can use, as reported by Tech Republic. “These new features on bob — including the non-binary gender identity feature and preferred pronoun features — allow companies to give their workers power over how they are addressed and identified by their coworkers,” said HiBob senior director Ali Fazal.
Pickard said the pandemic and remote working have boosted online learning and awareness raising. Online tools need to be used to “raise trans awareness, but also disseminate information and guidance to managers on how to create trans positive teams and support trans employees appropriately.”
In addition, focusing on HR tech, Briggs explains that Aviva “employees can now state their preferred name and gender-neutral title using Aviva’s HR software, which may help employees transitioning at work and non-binary colleagues.”
Similarly, AstraZeneca has, particularly as a result of remote working due to the pandemic, focused on data collection in order to track the progress of its aim to “eliminate unconscious bias at every stage of the talent pathway.”
“We improved the technology we currently use to gather employee data and launched a campaign to encourage our people around the world to input as much of their diversity data as possible,” explains Martin.
This included adding new gender designations for employees, including gender neutral.
This is a great step in the right direction. However, Pickard notes that these data-focused efforts are only appropriate and functional once workplaces have become a safe place for trans and non-binary people to come out.
Beyond toilets and pronouns
It’s important to remember, as a recent Instagram post by Pink News emphasized, that trans issues are more complex than just toilets and pronouns.
Although gender-neutral toilets and employees popping pronouns in email signatures are great policies, trans-inclusive workplaces need to go beyond that.
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