When I was at Grace Hopper a few weeks ago, I managed to catch the end of a terrific session given by software engineer Hazel Havard about the challenges faced by transgender people in the IT industry.
But the most moving part of her presentation happened after she’d finished speaking, when I witnessed her colleagues approach her and shower Havard with hugs, kisses and congratulations. There were tears, including my own. It was a beautiful thing to see — clearly Havard is accepted, supported and cared for in her workplace.
But it’s certainly not that way for the trans community in general. Just a few quick stats, according to an excellent piece from Everyday Feminism:
” …trans people face a lot of BS at work. Some sources estimate our un/underemployment rates to be close to 50 percent. And 90 percent of us report experiencing discrimination or harassment on the job. A recent survey of hiring practices towards the most privileged trans people in Washington, DC found that 48 percent of workplaces would rather consider a less qualified cis-gendered person than a more qualified trans person.”
That’s just focusing on workplace issues. The trans community’s suicide rate is a horrifying 41 percent.
What can your organization do to make sure you’re being more inclusive and actively supportive of your transgender workers? The Everyday Feminism piece lays out 11 steps you can take to help that include providing training for your entire workforce, making sure your company’s healthcare plan(s) affirm the needs of trans workers, including hormone therapy and medical transition care, if that’s something an employee wants to pursue.
You also should create, explain and enforce specific inclusion policies both internally and externally to make sure everyone at your company, as well as your customers, understands the need to acknowledge and support trans workers. Sure, you might get some flak, like Target did when it came out in opposition to the anti-transgender bathroom privacy laws in North Carolina, for example. But don’t let that deter you from making a public stand to help protect trans persons.
For trans persons looking for a new role, it’s helpful to know where to look; don’t waste your energy trying to land a job somewhere that’s not going to support you. This piece, from Business Insider, pulls together a list of the most trans-inclusive companies from 2015.
Finally, don’t be afraid. You might feel awkward and uncomfortable addressing these issues with your workforce, but that discomfort pales in comparison to the good you’ll be doing.