\u201c2014 me didn\u2019t know he was a girl,\u201d recounts Effy Elden, a software developer based in Melbourne. \u201cBut thenhellip;well, the Internet happened.\u201d\nUntil then, Elden, 24, had simply \u201cgone along\u201d with being a boy; until she moved from Perth to Victoria, met a boy and found Twitter.\nOn social media she met \u201cactively, proudly, wonderfully queer people, with diverse sexualities, genders, and identities\u201d and begun communicating with \u201cpansexual people, polyamorous people, and most importantly trans people\u201d.\nWithin a year, Elden came to the realisation: \u201cshe was a girl\u201d.\n\u201cThis was a hard thing to realise, and harder still to deal with,\u201d Elden writes. \u201c[I] knew the hardships, discrimination, and abuse faced by most trans people for the rest of their life after coming out.\u201d\nThe adversity is very real. According to Telethon Kids Institute research four in five young transgender people in Australia have self-harmed (compared with one in ten adolescents in the general population), nearly half have attempted suicide, and three-quarters have been diagnosed with depression.\nWhen old enough to enter the workforce, trans people are often forced to face more distress. In Australia many report difficulty in securing employment, being fired after announcing their intention to transition and, as a 2013 BeyondBlue survey heard, being forced to resign \u201cbecause their peers made life unbearable for them\u201d.\nEffy Elden, a software developer at ThoughtWorks\nWorkplaces don\u2019t need to be so unwelcoming, however. Some, like global software consultancy ThoughtWorks, Elden\u2019s employer, insist on maintaining an inclusive working environment.\nIn ThoughtWorks Elden says she has found an employer with a genuine \u201cappetite for inclusion and making people feel welcome\u201d. The fact she shared her deeply personal story on the company\u2019s internal blog is testament to that.\nAs Elden describes it, the company is \u201csomewhere where I feel like I can truly be myself and still contribute to making the world a better place\u201d.\nIt didn\u2019t happen by accident. The culture of inclusion is deliberate and designed, from the bold, top-down company-wide policies to the minutiae of company systems.\n\u2018Finally found my tribe\u2019\nThoughtWorks has more than 4,500 employees working in 41 offices in 14 countries. Founded by Roy Singham in the early \u201990s, it has a clear mission statement: \u201cto better humanity through software and help drive the creation of a socially and economically just world\u201d.\nThe company \u2013 which Singham sold in 2017 to focus on activism work \u2013 has been dubbed \u201cRoy\u2019s Social Experiment,\u201d operating on the belief that culture trumps business model in the long-term.\n\u201cWe invest in creating a workplace where everyone feels supported no matter their individual circumstances,\u201d company spokespeople say. But unlike many companies trumpeting their \u2018values\u2019, it\u2019s fair to say ThoughtWorks practices what it preaches.\nAs Singham once joked: "we have been accused of disregarding our mantra of diversity by not hiring socially-ignorant people".\n\u201cThoughtWorks is genuinely a culture that openly talks about everything and one that is inclusive and not exclusive,\u201d says Nathan Urquhart, a project manager and business analyst, who has been with the company since 2017.\u201cWe also have a feedback culture and if something is said which makes any of us uncomfortablewe speak to the people who made us feel that way and openly discuss it.\u201d\nNathan Urquhart, ThoughtWorks project manager and business analyst\nUrquhart grew up in a \u201cvery white town\u201d in the UK, where he \u201cdidn\u2019t notice any diversity there because there wasn\u2019t any!\u201d After coming out as gay to his mum on his return from university, he was asked to leave home. After \u201cdesperately navigating life with a skewed sense of confusion about who I should and shouldn\u2019t be\u201d he found some stability in a field he excelled at, IT.\n\u201cWhile I never felt afraid to hold my boyfriend\u2019s hand when I was walking down the street, in the industry I was never honest about my sexuality. I was young.There was a different generation in the IT industry. I was too scared to be myself,\u201d he says.\nThe feeling is not uncommon among LGBT people. A2018 surveyby UK charity Stonewall found one in five LGBT staff had been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues over the last year because they are LGBT. The same report found more than a third of LGBT staff have hidden or disguised that part of them at work because they were afraid of discrimination.\nWhile he came out at other workplaces, Urquhart says it \u201cwasn\u2019t until ThoughtWorks that I felt I was 100 per cent able to be myself and feel accepted at work\u201d.\nPaying attention\nEarlier this year, ThoughtWorks was named as one of only two technology companies (along with Fujitsu) on Stonewall\u2019s Top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers index for 2019. The ranking is based on a range of factors including policies, procurement, community engagement and leadership.\n\u201cThe ThoughtWorks Australia anti-harassment policy is very strong and worded well, and specifically includes policies around gendering trans people correctly, which is surprisingly rare and very welcome,\u201d Elden tells CIO Australia.\nThoughtWorks' Melbourne office\n\u201cWe pay a lot of attention to the language we use regarding gender, in a way that ensures that non-binary people are included, for example, using \u2018non-men\u2019 instead of women. This commitment is extended to our staffing systems, where I was delighted to find that I could set a custom gender, and select multiple sets of pronouns that I use. This is very rare on almost any system,\u201d she adds.\nThe company\u2019s people team is now looking at including information about pronouns and non-binary genders in its induction pack for future starters. This proposal came out of an office email thread Elden started about trans and gender diverse issues, to which she received \u201cvery positive responses\u201d.\nOther threads have started, with subject lines like: Where are you from? Is it okay to ask this? Creating environments safe for all with inclusive behaviours and language.\n\u201cThese emails start huge threads where we talk openly and share our experiences,\u201d Urquhart, who once represented England at the Gay Soccer World Cup, says.\nA ThoughtWorks Melbourne LGBTIQA social club has recently been founded, with regular social events planned, as well as a group called Intertwined, made up of people from communities that remain underrepresented or marginalised in tech, and their allies.\nThe group aims to \u201cbreak down diversity silos\u201d and \u201cshape best practice and policy\u201d around diversity and inclusion. Once established it aims to have representation across age, race, gender, disability, faith, sexuality, neurodiversity, social mobility and mental health.\nThe company also hosts Pecha Kucha(a snappy presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each) evenings, where staff present on topics which have included \u2018homophobiain soccer\u2019 and \u2018the Black Panther movie, why it was so good: inclusion and gender\u2019. The transgender flag now hangs alongside the Melbourne office\u2019s rainbow flag.\nThe word is getting out. \u201cI recently referred someone for a developer role, who was specifically interested in working for ThoughtWorks because it felt like a safe and welcoming place for trans people,\u201d Elden says.\nMore than any specific initiative, however, Elden and Urquhart most appreciate the openness, honesty and empathy of their colleagues at all levels.\nAs Urquhart puts it: \u201cI finally found my tribe\u201d.