Creating a Trans*-Inclusive Workplace: Key Steps to Support and Empower Trans* Employees

Hispanic transgender woman in a wheelchair at work


The Crucial Role of Trans Inclusion in the Workplace

In today’s evolving business landscape, nurturing an inclusive workplace extends beyond social justice—it’s a vital component of a thriving organization. Often overlooked, transgender inclusion is integral to this inclusivity equation. Despite considerable public advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights, many corporate environments have yet to fully champion an inclusive culture for transgender employees—a necessity for boosting morale, productivity, and overall business performance.

A diverse and inclusive workplace sparks innovation, creativity, and collaboration. By embracing the collective strength of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences—including those of transgender employees—organizations can ignite new ideas and tackle complex problems more effectively. Inclusion presents an opportunity to benefit from this community’s unique insights and skills, thereby enhancing business outcomes.

When transgender employees are respected, valued, and included, they often display heightened engagement and loyalty. This sense of belonging fostered by inclusive workplaces can significantly diminish turnover rates, leading to cost savings associated with recruitment and training.

Moreover, prioritizing transgender inclusion resonates powerfully with potential employees, customers, and stakeholders. Companies with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion can elevate their reputation, attract exceptional talent, and appeal to discerning clients and investors. In a competitive business landscape, prioritizing trans-inclusion can position companies as forward-thinking leaders in their respective industries.

Workplace inclusion has a profound impact on employee well-being as well. Transgender employees facing discrimination, harassment, or exclusion are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. By fostering trans inclusion, companies can help improve the mental health of their employees, thereby enhancing productivity, engagement, and overall job satisfaction.

Embracing trans inclusion in the workplace is paramount for organizations fostering a diverse, equitable, thriving culture. Recognizing and celebrating the unique contributions of transgender employees enables organizations to tap into the full potential of their workforce, enhance their reputation, and drive business success in a global and competitive market.

Challenges Encountered by Transgender Employees

Despite the clear benefits of inclusion, transgender employees frequently encounter significant hurdles in the workplace, ranging from overt discrimination to more subtle forms of bias and harmful corporate strategies. These challenges often create formidable barriers to career success, job satisfaction, and personal well-being. Critical issues faced by transgender employees include:

  • Employment Discrimination: Studies, such as those conducted by McKinsey & Company, have found that transgender adults are twice as likely to be unemployed as cisgender adults. This disparity often results from bias and lack of understanding among recruiters and hiring managers.
  • Wage Disparity: Despite often having similar or higher education levels, transgender employees earn approximately 32% less than their cisgender counterparts. This wage gap can contribute to financial instability and exacerbate the economic hardships faced by many transgender individuals.
  • Difficulty in Being ‘Out’ at Work: More than half of transgender employees don’t feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work. This discomfort hampers their ability to form meaningful professional relationships and can impact their career progression. Fear of discrimination or being ostracized can force these employees to suppress their true identity, affecting their mental health and overall well-being.
  • Navigating Workplace Culture: Many transgender employees report difficulties understanding workplace culture, accessing benefits, and advancing in their careers. These challenges can foster feelings of isolation and marginalization, making it difficult for these employees to feel integrated into the workplace.
  • Discrimination and Harassment: Over one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-quarters have experienced some form of workplace discrimination. This can range from privacy violations and harassment to physical and sexual violence, severely impacting their mental and emotional health.
  • Intersectional Challenges: Transgender employees, particularly those of colour or those with disabilities, may face additional layers of discrimination. These individuals experience compounded difficulties in the workplace based on race, ethnicity, or disability status.
  • Lack of Institutional Support: Many organizations lack the necessary policies and support structures to accommodate transgender employees. This includes inclusive healthcare benefits, gender-neutral restroom facilities, or guidelines for transitioning at work. The absence of these support structures can leave transgender employees feeling neglected and unprotected in their professional environment.
  • Performative Allyship: Some organizations may make grand gestures to support LGBTQ+ rights during Pride Month yet fail to support transgender employees throughout the year consistently. This seasonal support can feel insincere and often exacerbates feelings of marginalization among transgender employees.
  • Pinkwashing: Some corporate or political entities may promote their ‘gay-friendliness’ to downplay or soften aspects that might be considered harmful; a strategy is known as ‘pinkwashing.’ This approach often fails to consider the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities, particularly the unique experiences and challenges faced by transgender employees. By focusing predominantly on sexual orientation, these initiatives can inadvertently overlook or alienate transgender employees, making them feel underrepresented or misunderstood in the workplace.
  • Rainbowwashing: Marketing teams can use the LGBTQ+ cause for promotional purposes without considering the impact on transgender employees. Brands that face backlash for such tactics can create a hostile environment for transgender employees if they fail to respond supportively.

Addressing these challenges requires organizations to commit to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees, including those who identify as transgender. Implementing inclusive policies, providing diversity training, offering consistent support, and avoiding performative allyship or rainbow washing is essential to cultivating a more equitable workplace where everyone can flourish.

The Objective of Creating a Supportive Environment

Recognizing and actively addressing the unique challenges that transgender employees face is essential for creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. This goes beyond merely implementing anti-discrimination policies; it requires a deep commitment to fostering a culture of respect, understanding, and acceptance. By taking these steps, organizations can empower transgender employees to fully engage in the workplace without fear of discrimination, harassment, or exclusion.

A genuinely inclusive workplace serves as a beacon of equality and becomes a thriving ecosystem for innovative thinking. When employees from diverse backgrounds feel seen, heard, and valued, it stimulates the diversity of thought that fuels creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making. In this way, inclusion catalyzes overall organizational growth and success.

The ultimate objective of creating such a supportive environment is to ensure that transgender employees, like all others, have equal access to opportunities and resources. This includes but is not limited to career advancement opportunities, training and development programs, health and wellness benefits, and social activities. This equitable access allows transgender employees to realize their full potential, bringing their unique perspectives and skills to bear on the organization’s mission and strategic goals.

In the context of the broader societal conversation about gender identity and expression, organizations also have an opportunity to lead by example. By championing trans inclusion, they can significantly shift societal norms and perceptions, creating a more inclusive and accepting society. Moreover, they can push back against harmful practices such as pinkwashing and rainbow washing, which can alienate transgender employees and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The drive to cultivate a supportive and inclusive environment for transgender employees should not be seen as an optional endeavour but as a vital aspect of organizational development and growth. The positive impacts of such an environment extend beyond individual employees, fostering a sense of community, enhancing team performance, and contributing to the organization’s reputation as an inclusive and forward-thinking entity.

Critical Actions to Support Trans Inclusion

Advocating for Trans Inclusion

  1. Sharing Messages of Support: Encourage an open dialogue and communication within the organization to foster a culture of acceptance and understanding for transgender employees. Share messages of support through various channels, such as company newsletters, internal communications, and social media platforms. Spotlight the success stories of transgender employees, organize educational events, and provide resources for employees to deepen their understanding of transgender issues. By creating an open communication and support atmosphere, organizations can help dismantle barriers, making the workplace more inclusive for transgender employees.
  2. Engaging Senior Leaders: Inclusion efforts should be top-down, necessitating the involvement of top management in promoting trans inclusion. Senior leaders should be visible advocates for transgender rights, leveraging their influence to drive positive organizational change. This includes incorporating trans-inclusion goals into strategic planning, setting measurable objectives, and holding management accountable for progress. By engaging senior leaders, organizations can demonstrate their genuine commitment to crafting an inclusive workplace for all employees, regardless of gender identity.
  3. External Commitment to Trans Rights: Publicly articulate your organization’s commitment to transgender rights and inclusion. This can involve joining industry initiatives, collaborating with LGBTQ+ organizations, or sponsoring events that endorse transgender rights and inclusion. Use external channels like your website, press releases, and social media platforms to communicate your commitment to trans-inclusion. By making a public commitment to trans rights, organizations can signal their dedication to creating a truly inclusive workplace and inspire others to follow suit.

Inclusive Policy-Making

  1. Updating and Reviewing Policies: For a genuinely inclusive workplace, regularly review and update company policies to ensure they incorporate the needs of transgender employees. The process involves:
    • Identifying Areas for Improvement: Perform a thorough audit of existing policies to identify where transgender employees might face discrimination, exclusion, or a lack of support.
    • Gathering Input from Transgender Employees: Involve transgender employees and other stakeholders in the policy review process. Their insights can help identify potential issues and solutions, ensuring the policies effectively address their needs.
    • Amending Policies: Based on the audit and input from transgender employees, modify policies to ensure they are inclusive and supportive of transgender individuals. This might involve removing gendered language, adding explicit protections against discrimination, or incorporating guidelines for supporting employees during gender transition.
    • Communicating Changes: Inform all employees about the updated policies and the rationale behind the changes. Provide training and resources to help staff understand the new policies and their role in fostering an inclusive workplace.
    • Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the updated policies and gather feedback from transgender employees to assess their impact. Make further adjustments as needed to ensure that policies continue to meet the needs of transgender staff and promote an inclusive work environment.

Key Policies to Consider

  • Bullying & Harassment Policy: Address discrimination and harassment that target transgender employees. The policy should define what constitutes bullying, harassment, and discrimination and explicitly include protections for transgender employees. It should also outline steps for reporting incidents and the process for handling complaints, ensuring that victims feel safe and supported.
  • Transitioning at Work Policy: Guidelines and support for employees undergoing gender transition are essential to trans-inclusive policies. A comprehensive Transitioning at Work policy should outline the organization’s commitment to supporting employees during their transition process, including provisions for time off, changes in name and pronoun usage, and necessary adjustments to uniforms or dress codes.
  • Family Leave Policies: Ensure that Family Leave policies include transgender employees and their families. These policies should cover parental, medical, and other family-related leave for all employees, regardless of gender identity. Policies should not discriminate against transgender parents or those with non-traditional family structures.

Trans-Inclusive Facilities

To create a comfortable and inclusive environment for transgender employees, ensure they have access to facilities that align with their gender identity. This includes:

  • Establishing Clear Guidelines: Develop guidelines that allow transgender employees to use bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
  • Addressing Concerns: Address any concerns or misconceptions other employees may have about transgender facility usage. Provide education and resources to promote understanding and acceptance within the workplace.
  • Monitoring for Compliance: Regularly monitor facility usage to ensure all employees can access the facilities they need without discrimination or harassment.
  • Implementing Gender-Neutral Washrooms: Assess your current restroom setup to determine where gender-neutral facilities can be added or existing restrooms can be converted. Inform employees about the availability and purpose of gender-neutral restrooms and provide education on the importance of these facilities for promoting an inclusive workplace. Continuously review the usage and effectiveness of gender-neutral restrooms, gathering feedback from employees to ensure they meet the needs of the diverse workforce. Make adjustments as necessary to improve the inclusivity and functionality of the facilities.

Trans Inclusion in Hybrid and Digital Working

The growing trend of hybrid and digital workspaces requires specific considerations to ensure trans inclusion. Here are a few steps to take:

  • Inclusive Meeting Guidance: Encourage employees to include correct names and pronouns in their email signatures, video conference profiles, and name tags. This practice helps normalize correct names and pronouns, fostering an environment of respect and understanding.
  • Code of Conduct Adjustments: Include clear expectations in your company’s code of conduct that all employees should treat each other respectfully, regardless of gender identity. This can help set a standard for respectful interactions and behaviour in digital spaces.
  • Optional Webcam Use: Provide options for employees to turn off their webcams during virtual meetings. Some people might feel uncomfortable being on camera for various reasons, including gender-related issues, and should not be required to disclose those reasons.

Work with Your LGBTQ+ Network Group

Your organization’s LGBTQ+ network group can provide valuable insights and feedback on your trans-inclusion initiatives. Make sure to:

  • Consult Regularly: Regularly with the group to discuss ongoing initiatives, potential improvements, and any issues. The group can provide essential insights and perspectives to inform your approach to trans inclusion.
  • Collaborate on Initiatives: Work together on projects and events that promote trans inclusion, such as awareness campaigns or educational workshops.
  • Encourage Feedback: The group should provide feedback on policies, practices, and initiatives. This feedback can help identify potential areas of improvement and ensure that your organization’s approach to trans inclusion is effective and responsive.
  • Ensure Representation: Strive for diverse representation within the group, including trans individuals from various departments, seniority levels, and backgrounds.

Build an Action Plan

Creating an action plan is vital in advancing your organization’s trans-inclusion efforts. When building your action plan:

  • Assess the Current State: Identify existing areas of strength and areas for improvement in your organization’s policies, practices, and culture.
  • Set Clear Objectives: Define SMART goals for trans inclusion that align with your organization’s overall diversity and inclusion strategy. Prioritize these initiatives based on their potential impact and feasibility.
  • Assign Responsibilities: Define roles and responsibilities for implementing the action plan, and ensure that those involved understand their duties.
  • Collaborate with the LGBTQ+ Network Group: Regularly engage with the group to discuss the progress of the action plan, address any challenges that arise, and celebrate successes.
  • Provide Tailored Resources: Develop customized training programs and provide access to relevant resources to support your organization’s trans inclusion goals.

In conclusion, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for trans employees involves ongoing effort and collaboration. By taking proactive steps to address challenges, implement inclusive policies, and provide necessary resources, organizations can create a workspace where all employees are empowered to contribute fully and achieve their potential. The impact of these efforts extends beyond the workplace, contributing to a more inclusive and understanding society.


The Importance of Continuous Improvement in Trans Inclusion

Trans-inclusion is not a one-off project but a continuous journey that evolves with society. Just as society grows more aware and accepting of transgender issues, organizations must also continually evolve their policies and practices to stay inclusive and supportive. The goal is to create a work environment where everyone, regardless of gender identity, feels valued, respected, and genuinely supported.

Encouragement to Reach Out for Support and Resources

Achieving true trans-inclusion is a collective effort. Organizations are encouraged to seek guidance, support, and resources from experts, LGBTQ+ network groups, and other avenues dedicated to this cause. Businesses can craft an effective strategy to foster an inclusive workplace by learning from best practices and leveraging resources. Collaborating with these groups and utilizing available resources is essential to this journey.

The Impact of a Trans-Inclusive Workplace on Employee Well-being and Success

Embracing trans-inclusion has numerous benefits, not only for transgender employees but also for the organization as a whole. Employees who feel accepted and valued for who they are are more likely to be engaged, productive, and content with their jobs. This can lead to higher retention rates, improved talent acquisition, and enhanced organizational performance. Plus, projecting a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion resonates positively with the wider community, reinforcing the company’s reputation and standing.

In closing, the journey towards trans-inclusion in the workplace is not just a beneficial move but a necessary one for the well-being and success of all employees. It requires an ongoing commitment to enhancing policies and practices, leveraging expertise and resources, and recognizing the profound impact of a trans-inclusive environment. By doing so, organizations can contribute to a more inclusive society where everyone thrives, regardless of gender identity.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.