The Trans Inclusion Agenda, and Why your Organisation Needs One
As we’ve just had our third birthday at Trans*formation, I’ve been reflecting on the amazing 3 years we’ve had so far, thinking about what inclusion really means for the trans community and what this means for business.
At Trans*formation we continue to see positive engagement from senior executives in business, taking responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are welcoming and inclusive of transgender and gender-variant employees.
But why is this important – and why should it be the task of businesses to create inclusive cultures for transgender people? Furthermore, what are the genuine business benefits for being a trans-inclusive organisation?
We’re still living in a world where the unemployment and poverty rate for transgender people remains at around three times higher than the UK national average.
Most transgender people who are employed report that they either changed jobs to allow for a break to transition, often through fear of facing potential discrimination.
Around 45% of transgender people report that they have experienced a step down in terms of professional seniority after having transitioned and returned to work.
Transgender people tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population, with over 41% of trans men and women estimated to have attempted suicide — a rate that’s nearly nine times as high as the rate of cisgender Americans.
Businesses and corporate organisations are gradually becoming more aware the influence they can have on some of these stark challenges that our community continues to face, and are working towards embedding trans-inclusive cultures in positive and action-oriented ways.
We see positive engagement and change in the work we do through Trans*formation every day, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of an organisation that works with businesses and sector-leaders alike who are committed to making the world a better place for trans people in the workplace.
But it’s not just transgender people who reap the benefits from workplace inclusion. I’m a firm believer that secure and paid employment is not just an obvious solution to paying the bills, but makes up a huge part of one’s overall sense of stability, purpose, normality and acceptance in society.
If organisations are therefore able to ensure that their policies, employment processes and workplace cultures are open and inclusive for transgender and gender-variant people, they will not only find that the depth of their diversity will increase but their organisation will be seen by others as authentically inclusive and not just tokenistic or detached from an action-oriented commitment to diversity.
In my day job I work in senior level executive search and selection and often our clients speak of the need for emotional intelligence, the ability to be critical, and the importance of ‘cognitive diversity’, i.e. recruiting those who think differently, and who are able to challenge groupthink and ingrained assumptions in the culture of an organisation. What better candidate to fit the bill than someone whose very life depends on the ability to challenge societal gender norms on a macro level?
Transgender people have been scrutinised, challenged, belittled, told we’re going through “phases and it’ll pass”, told we “don’t pass”, told we won’t ever really be, well, “real”. And despite all of these issues (that I know will resonate with every transgender or non-binary person reading this), I haven’t met one transgender person who isn’t a remarkable and resilient human being – not in spite of all of this, but because of it.
So what does a genuinely inclusive workplace look like for a transgender employee?
Understanding and empathetic senior management teams, who are educated on the key issues affecting transgender people. This is hugely important, particularly if an organisation has individuals who are expressing gender-variance or who are considering coming out.
Creating and maintaining positivity via utilising the corporate brand for positive influence. A good place to start is by ensuring your company brand is identifiable as trans-inclusive from a customer’s perspective. Engaging with and supporting events such as LGBT Pride and Trans Pride (and flying the flags accordingly) is a good way to send the message out.
Developing and championing employees as Trans Allies. Trans allies are integral to an organisation that wants to be seen as a safe space for transgender people to come out and be seen authentically by others, without having to be concerned about facing harassment, bullying or discrimination. At Trans*formation we are constantly creating new trans allies via our educational sessions – and we find this hugely rewarding!
Supportive and trans-friendly HR policies. If someone is in the process of transitioning in your organisation, it is important that your HR policies allow for a swift and hassle-free change of employee details and data contained on this person. Perhaps more importantly, it is essential that your senior HR leaders are educated and understand both the policy and processes.
Trans-inclusive health cover and private medical insurance. Believe it or not, most UK employer-provided health cover plans still exclude transgender people from their policies. With the help of Trans*formation, Lloyds Banking Group recently became one of the first UK corporate firms to offer health cover for transgender employees, putting them well on their way to setting the bar high for others and leading the trans-inclusion agenda. If you’re unsure, speak to us at Trans*formation about how your company can start working towards trans-inclusive health cover.
Knowledge sharing. If your organisation is fulfilling the above criteria, congratulations! In spreading the word of your achievements, this not only helps to set a new standard of diversity and inclusion for other organisations, but will also champion your organisation as authentically diverse and committed to including and developing transgender people at all levels.
A fair and trans-inclusive recruitment process. This means that candidates who disclose themselves to be transgender are treated fairly, and that hiring managers are educated and informed of how to deal with transgender candidates professionally. If your organisation is utilising executive search firms or recruitment providers ensure that your recruitment partners are informed and representative of the values of your organisation when speaking with transgender applicants – particularly over the telephone when most of us are quick to assume someone’s gender by their vocal pitch.
The past three years at Trans*formation has seen us work with over 40 different organisations, including large investment and retail banks, corporate firms, charities, recruitment firms and law firms, all to make the case for transgender inclusion.
Our mission is simple: to eradicate the discrimination of transgender people, to ensure that the levels of unemployment are equal to or better than the national average, and to create workplace environments where transgender people are valued for their authenticity and journey.
I became involved with Trans*formation in 2014 because of a realisation that there was a lack of professional networking and support for transgender people in business.
Three years later, and now that we’re much more than a pure professional networking organisation, covering legal reform, Corporate Healthcare, systems provision and a drive for hiring more trans people, we want to help business better engage with a trans-inclusion agenda of their own so do come and speak with us.
Owen Francis is an Executive Director of Trans*formation, and a Principle Researcher at Harvey Nash.