Cultivating Business Excellence by Creating Transgender Inclusive Workplaces
May 23, 2017
Posted by: CPHR Manitoba
As featured in the Spring 2017 issue of HRmatters
Authored by: Dr. Reece Malone, founder and CEO of Diversity Essentials, www.diversityessentials.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Transgender (adjective): An umbrella term to include those whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth. Variations include: trans woman, trans man, gender diverse, gender fluid, gender queer.
Diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Management and human resources are acutely aware of the importance of a thriving workplace reflective of our culture, clients, and consumers. When the workplace allows for full participation and welcomes collective contributions, we are more likely to retain the brightest employees, and build consumer confidence.
A work environment that supports and thrives on employees to be their whole and authentic selves cultivates higher quality idea-exchanges, productivity, and a more desirable work atmosphere. But what if we cannot bring our authentic selves forward? And from a human resource perspective, are we missing out on untapped potential?
Social justice advocacy highlights the impact of marginalization of individuals and communities that have been subject to prejudice and ostracization, often due to a lack of awareness by dominant cultures. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are a few of the historic systemic barriers to sustainable and meaningful employment. Maintaining equitable practices and policies helps to narrow the gaps, however identity-based discrimination and stigma continues to weave through our workplaces. More recently, media has better highlighted the challenges and discrimination individuals face based on gender identity and gender expression. Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities (LGBT+), the “T” is often overlooked despite transgender people being on the frontlines of the LGBT2SQ+ liberation movement. One can theorize that the dominant binary concepts of man and woman, or male or female, have rendered others unacknowledged or illegitimate, despite historical cultural references that revere transgender and gender diverse individuals.
To cultivate better awareness and understanding of gender diversity, CPHR Manitoba, in collaboration with Rainbow Resource Centre recently hosted joint awareness sessions on Transgender and Gender Inclusive Workplaces. In the Manitoba Human Rights Act, gender identity is a protected category from discrimination. Gender identity is currently in process of being enshrined in the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code. Thus, as our culture evolves, the importance of knowing the essentials of a forward-thinking, diverse gender workforce also intersects multiple identities including race and colour, national or ethnic origin, age, ability, and religion. The importance of learning about the lives of transgender and gender diverse people is also the practice of equity and allyship that reinforces inclusive workplaces and the opportunity to compliment current knowledge.
More transgender employees are ‘coming out’ or are transitioning in the workplace and more employees are disclosing that a family member or friend is disclosing they are transgender. Furthermore, there are also those in both our professional and personal lives that are disclosing they are gender fluid or gender non-conforming; and position themselves as non-binary by self-identifying with gender neutral pronouns, example ‘they’ or ‘them’ rather than he or she. As the lead trainer on transgender lives, I have encountered more workplaces inquiring how best to respond and accommodate the needs of their employees and consumers. Building professional capacity on the lives of transgender people requires reflection of what we know within our own gender identity, roles, and stereotypes. Our own reflections can foster deeper empathy for our colleagues, as well as the people we serve.
An inclusive workforce welcomes and supports transgender and gender diverse employees, regardless of where they are in their process of transition. Operationally, workplaces are encouraged to revisit their logic models, vision, mission, and value statements, as well as policies and practices. As bathroom bills in the US have been heavily contested on whether or not to allow transgender people to use a washroom according to their gender identity, many companies and organizations have shifted their lens beyond bathroom accommodations. For many, this translates to critically thinking beyond absolute gender trajectories and adjoining transgender employees by acknowledging where they are at within their own transition. For those not transgender, otherwise known as cisgender, upon reflection of on our own lives, we acknowledge the importance that others refer to us by our name, gender, and pronoun (ex. he/she/they). We expect fair treatment and the same opportunities to grow both professionally and personally within our workplace. Altruistically, some of us step aside so that we can share access and center the voices and identities that are underrepresented. As staff people, we also have a right to privacy and within a need-to-know basis, only vital aspects of our lives may come forward to select individuals.
That being said, it is not a far leap to identify both our differences and commonalities with those who have a different gender than our own or have lived a different gender pathway. Our collective hopes for access and fair treatment remain the same. Many of us in management and human resources are well positioned to practice beyond recognizing that diversity simply exists. The question is how are we practicing equity? What do we operationally need within our organizational structured and policies that progressively align with our evolving world? What tools can we provide staff should a colleague or consumer disclose their transgender and gender diverse history? And how can our services be not just for some of us, but for all of us? Sexuality and gender diversity specialists, and LGBT2SQ+ resource centres can help facilitate this pathway by providing tools, policy suggestions, and appropriate responses to disclosure underscoring that transgender and gender diverse inclusive workplaces have a positive impact to workplace cultures and service provision.