5 Ways To Be Trans Inclusive at Work
Transgender rights have come a long way since the mid-90s, with the granting of legal and social rights and protection to the whole transgender community. The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate upon gender identity, with media visibility creating greater social awareness for trans identities. Nevertheless, whilst trans individuals (defined in a report by the Government Equalities Office as “people whose gender is different from the gender assigned to them at birth”) make up approximately 1 percent of the UK population, they remain a disproportionately large group facing discrimination.
A 2018 study by Stonewall found that, despite the Equality Act’s aims to prevent discrimination, two in five transgender people faced a hate crime because of their gender identity in the previous year. This is not just an issue facing trans people in their personal lives. One in eight trans employees have also been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the year prior to the study. There is clearly more work to be done to free trans people from discrimination and to provide trans people with full acceptance.
Transgender policy at work
Introduced in 2010, the Equality Act prohibits ‘Sex’ and ‘Gender Reassignment’ from being grounds for discrimination, meaning that trans people are protected at work. However, policy and guidance on trans people in the workplace remains relatively unclear.
In EW’s reWorked podcast with Anthony Francis, he spoke about how Lloyds Bank was the first UK company to allow employees to transition on their health insurance. This is one company exceeding the legal minimum to be inclusive of their trans workforce. But companies are not required to make these types of commitments, nor must they have training in trans awareness. This means that transgender inclusion in the workplace varies significantly from organisation to organisation as trans-specific training isn’t mandatory. Without the appropriate policies in place, line managers, bosses and colleagues may fail to sufficiently support their trans colleagues with any difficulties they could likely face.
All of us have a responsibility to ensure that we can all bring our whole selves to work. This means that it’s not limited to trans people to change things – we can all do so much to change the experiences of our trans friends and work colleagues. Here are my five top recommendations to help your trans stakeholders to feel fully supported and accepted:
Using the preferred pronouns of trans people is one of the simplest yet most important ways to show your support for your trans colleagues. Don’t shy away from asking “how do you prefer to be addressed?” if you’re unsure. You can take pronouns further across your organisation and encourage colleagues to display their pronouns on their email signatures. Not only does this create a sense of trans visibility but this also helps to avoid confusing a colleague’s pronouns who, for instance, has a gender-neutral name.
2. Inclusive recruitment
Whilst it’s important not to tokenise minority groups, it’s vital that your organisation reflects the society in which it sits. Just like all social minority groups, trans people will not instantaneously be attracted to your work. Although you might know how accepting and vibrant your office is, external applicants have no idea of the workplace culture towards trans topics. This is why your organisation must take special steps to show its commitment to and celebration of equality, diversity and inclusion. Listing the opportunities for new employees to involve themselves in diversity activities, such as network groups or events, will demonstrate your organisation’s regard for equality to the outside world. (See EW’s Inclusive Recruitment services to help embed this in your organisation). Many trans employees will consider this when applying for jobs as the opportunities you offer are usually indicative of workplace acceptance.
3. Know your data
It’s important to understand the people who work for you (and the people who don’t). This step can help you understand how unconscious bias manifests itself in your workplace by seeing what social groups apply for jobs, progress through the application stages but perhaps don’t land the job. Data collection through diversity audits can highlight possible imbalances of employee demographics in different job bands. For instance, you might have several openly trans employees at your organisation, but statistics show that trans people are more likely to be in more junior roles, with many trans employees not being open to senior workers about their gender identity. Having this data is paramount in changing the culture at your work in helping you identify the necessary steps to build an inclusive workplace culture.
But simply observing this data will not create action. To accomplish organisational change, it’s also important to diversify areas of your data. For instance, throughout the data collection touch points, such as onboarding and job applications, it’s good to have a greater and more diverse choice of suffixes for applicants to select from. This will demonstrate your awareness for those applicants who wish not to identify through a binary suffix (such as Mr. or Mrs.). Offering alternatives, such as the gender-neutral suffix ‘Mx.’, you can both demonstrate your organisation’s consideration for its stakeholders and its dedication to social equality. If ‘Dr.’ is a gender-neutral suffix for those with certain qualifications, there should be a gender-neutral choice for everyone.
4. Be vocal about the organisation’s values
Be proud of your accomplishments. Encourage employees to establish an LGBT+ network if your organisation doesn’t already have one. Speak about your achievements in employee-circulated newsletters, for instance. Being vocal about your successes and your stance on certain topics – like celebrating trans rights on Transgender Day of Visibility – will mould an accepting workplace culture and help with your inclusive recruitment measures by transmitting an open and welcoming message to customers and employees.
5. Provide good support to line managers
This is perhaps one of the most important steps when it comes to changing your trans employees’ experiences if they open up about their gender identities at work. Their line manager’s understanding of inclusive work cultures will vastly alter their experience with coming out at work or deciding to openly transition. If your line managers have received the appropriate support, training and guidance, they will be able to best support to their trans colleagues. Equipping your line managers with a comprehensive understanding of trans issues can be done through training in unconscious bias, transgender awareness, or more general diversity and inclusion training to extend their ability to manage social issues that emerge at work. The growing list of resources available in the public domain, including this toolkit by the Human Rights Campaign, can help you to best support your employees who identify as trans or non-binary.