(Photo by Danielle Corcione)
When was the last time you asked about someone’s pronouns at work?
LGBTQ nonprofit Out & Equal hosted its annual workplace summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center this week. Michaela Mendelsohn, the founder of TransCanWork, and Rex Wilde, who works on business development at the organization, together presented a workshop about transgender inclusion in the workplace on Wednesday, which was also National Coming Out Day.
TransCanWork is a California-based nonprofit that provides resources for employers wanting to hire transgender employees, including but not limited to trans-inclusivity certification training, gender diversity workshops, legal and human resource guidance and one-on-one executive coaching.
In their “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Inclusivity in the Workplace” talk, Mendelsohn and Wilde discussed the employment challenges the trans community faces as well as offered some solutions for employers. Some takeaways from their presentation:
The trans community is one of the most vulnerable populations to workplace discrimination.
Many of these approximately 1.4 million Americans are fired for coming out as transgender to their employers. According to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the unemployment rate for transgender people is 15 percent, which is three times the overall population. Additionally, the unemployment rate for transgender people of color is 20 percent. Employers should educate their workplaces — including those in administrative roles — about gender and sexuality to prevent and discourage discriminatory behavior.
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California is the “gold standard” for legal protections for transgender people.
Currently, the state requires managers to undergo harassment training every two years already, but under the proposed Senate Bill 396, called the Transgender Work Opportunity Act, the training would also require harassment training regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Workplaces can echo the state’s fight against transgender discrimination by incorporating gender and sexuality into their harassment trainings.
Where the federal government is backtracking, businesses should step up.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back civil rights protections for transgender people. Businesses, Mendelsohn stressed, now have the social responsibility to normalize transgender inclusivity in their workplaces since the government currently doesn’t recognize the human rights of transgender people. Workplaces have the power to reverse the tone of the today’s political climate.
Trans-inclusivity is about more than hiring trans folks.
Wilde mentioned that while many workplaces say they’re trans-inclusive, they may still have little understanding of gender nonconforming people. For instance, your office may understand it’s inappropriate to ask questions about gender transition surgery, but may not understand that some gender nonconforming people use gender neutral (they/them/their) pronouns.
To better include gender non-conformity in your workplace, challenge your employees to use gender neutral pronouns for everyone for 10 minutes as an exercise. Additionally, if your office uses name tags, add gender pronouns to the tags.
We can celebrate the wins.
Despite the adversities trans community faces, there are success stories, that can happen in your workplace with the right tools and resources. The same report above says two-thirds of transgender people reported their workplaces were supportive of their identity.
For example, in April 2015, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was appointed the first transgender White House staffer as an outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in Obama’s White House Office of Presidential Personnel, LGBTQ groups and the White House.
— Philadelphia CVB (@discoverPHL) October 11, 2017