Deloitte University estimates that millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 (Smith & Turner, 2015). As this generation enters the workforce, one aspect that has been a challenge for many businesses is the fact that a significant number of millennials identify as transgender (trans). According to a 2017 GLAAD survey, 12% of millennials fall under the trans umbrella, meaning they identify as a gender that does not correspond with their birth sex (GLAAD, 2017).
Although it is becoming common for companies to advertise their acceptance of LGBT+ workers in their job postings, inclusion is more than just hiring people who are different from us. Individuals belonging to minority groups, and trans people especially, have specific needs that must be considered when creating inclusive policies. Like other diversity and inclusion initiatives, accommodating trans employees must be comprehensive and go beyond a single HR initiative. It is important to establish changes now not only to prepare your company for future generations of workers, but because there may be individuals currently employed who are closeted or not otherwise visibly trans (such as nonbinary or genderqueer people) that would immediately benefit from these changes. Below, I highlight three ways that your company can create an inclusive environment for transgender employees.
1. The first step to creating an inclusive environment for trans employees is to ensure that your organization has taken the effort to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, and that these initiatives are clear to those outside of your business. If your diversity policies are currently only posted internally, make sure they are accessible on the external company website so that individuals have a better understanding of your organization’s culture and values. When creating job applications, make sure that candidates have the option to include their preferred name/pronouns so that they can be properly addressed by recruiters and fellow coworkers should they be extended a job offer. During the selection process, ensure that you are focusing on the applicant’s qualifications rather than their identity, and minimizing other opportunities for bias wherever possible.
2. Another area of focus should be on company policies and workplace culture. Management should respect employees by using their preferred name/pronouns (and if you don’t know – ask!), setting an example for others on how that employee should be addressed. Examine current policies and ensure they take into account trans-specific needs. For example, eliminating gendered dress codes and opting for a neutral approach allows workers to wear what they are comfortable with while still maintaining a professional look. Providing gender-neutral or single-occupancy restrooms as an option to employees can help reduce anxiety when choosing a bathroom that best matches their identity. Be sure to establish clear anti-harassment policies and implement diversity training for current employees to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to understand how to appropriately interact with others in the workplace, minimizing the potential for issues to arise.
3. The final step to creating an inclusive environment for transgender employees is to ensure that they have adequate resources when support is needed. Make efforts to work with outside organizations such as the National Center for Transgender Equality that can offer guidance regarding the rights of trans employees. Within the company, make sure you are taking steps to ensure that trans employees feel that they will be taken seriously if they need to seek assistance from HR and management. Ensure that HR representatives are familiar with relevant laws and policies to provide the best assistance possible. However, this support should not be limited to trans individuals. Your company should also establish a point of contact within the business that all employees can reach out to for advice without fear of judgement if they have questions about LGBT+ issues or would like more detail about an established policy.
If your company is just starting the process of adapting its culture to accommodate trans workers, it can be overwhelming implementing so many changes. It is important to be patient and understand that there may be some resistance from those who have not previously been in highly diverse workplaces. But, if you are consistent in the application of company policies with both new and current employees, and listen to feedback as it arises, there will be an overall beneficial shift in your work environment. Once initial changes have been established, routinely review policies to further eliminate sources of discrimination and to ensure you are accommodating new minority groups as they become commonplace in society.
By following these steps on how to create an inclusive environment for transgender employees, your organization can make meaningful adjustments that will foster diversity in the workplace. Because the EEOC currently views transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, it is vital to act now so that your company can better accommodate a workforce of people where 20% of millennials identify as LGBT+ and 63% consider themselves allies of the LGBT+ community (GLAAD, 2017).
Smith, C. & Turner, S. (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University. Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/ dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-inclus-millennialinfluence- 120215.pdf
GLAAD (2017). Accelerating Acceptance 2017. Retrieved from: https:// www.glaad.org/publications/accelerating-acceptance-2017
Lisa Willis is currently pursuing a masters of human resources at Rollins College. She has a background in customer service and has recently been accepted into the Disney Professional Internships program as a Learning & Development Analyst.