Building and maintaining a trans inclusive workplace

In recent years, many organisations have made strides towards becoming more diverse and inclusive, with many implementing initiatives to celebrate and empower their company’s LGBT+ communities. Yet what’s often overlooked is the need to distinguish the needs of the individual identities that exist under the LGBT+ umbrella – especially for those within the ‘T’.

It’s critically important to tailor policies, development programmes and trainings to ensure that everyone has a fair and equal chance to succeed. This is typically where tracking diversity data comes into a league of its own, enabling businesses to better understand their workforces, then cater for employees’ needs accordingly.

However, not everyone feels comfortable with bringing their whole self to work, and given that 51 per cent of trans people disguise their gender identity at work for fear of discrimination, in this instance dissecting diversity data isn’t necessarily a reliable measure.

Regardless, employers can, and should, be taking numerous actions to build and maintain a trans-inclusive workplace.

Enforcing a zero-tolerance policy

First and foremost, no employer should tolerate discrimination or bullying of any kind. All discriminatory behaviour and unfair treatment must be met with appropriate disciplinary action.

If employees are informed, educated and aware of the additional challenges faced by their trans colleagues – such as the impact of using incorrect pronouns, deadnaming, and the effect of harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about trans people – then they are far less likely to unintentionally cause offense. Business leaders must also become allies and advocates for transgender employees, and provide broader training on the challenges faced by the LGBT+ community. INvolve, our sister company, provides bespoke, practical LGBT+-focused trainings and talent development programs to tackle biases and build inclusive, future-proof workplaces.

Beginning your allyship journey

34 per cent of people who are transgender say they have been excluded by colleagues, and even more feel totally excluded by some workplaces. Therefore, it’s vital that businesses are inclusive and cater to the specific needs of their trans employees. Recognising the significance of small actions that can build towards a more inclusive workplace shouldn’t be discounted and can be a relatively effortless first step in driving inclusion. For example, small changes such as stating pronouns in email signatures and in video calls, are an easy way to show your solidarity as an ally. Of course, there is no ‘end’ to allyship, and each change should be viewed as a step in the right direction as opposed to a definite, be all and end all, step. As workplaces and people evolve, so should allyship.

Simple steps can be implemented from your hiring and onboarding process through to retention – positioning your business as inclusive from the outset. Whether a person is trans or not, getting into the practice of stating your pronouns in interviews is a strong signal to the interviewee that you are an ally. Crucially, stating one’s pronouns shouldn’t come with an expectation that someone else should state theirs too – as those who aren’t out yet should never feel pressured to state pronouns that they don’t identify with or use their authentic pronouns before they are ready.

There is no better time to commit to allyship than during Transgender Awareness Week and International Transgender Day of Visibility, by taking the time to draw attention to ongoing discrimination and start conversations around inclusivity. Even the smallest of changes and actions often speak volumes about your organisations’ attitude towards inclusion.

From unconscious bias to conscious inclusion

Unconscious bias refers to the underlying attitudes that influence our decisions – the views we are unaware of, and are potentially problematic. 95 per cent of us are said to hold unconscious opinions due to our background, culture and personal experiences.

While we know that unconscious bias can impede our decision making and ultimately affect marginalised groups, it’s no longer enough to just recognise our biases. We must actively work to eradicate them in order to drive inclusion. This move from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion is vital, and something our sister company INvolve, have created bespoke trainings to address and have weaved into development programs for leaders and members of a business who oversee teams.

From a hiring perspective, Audeliss works to level the playing field and ensure that everyone has the ability to win the opportunity. By working with us, you are consciously making an effort create a senior leadership team that is representative of society and working to ensure a top-down approach to driving inclusion.

Diversifying the decision-makers

When employees feel they are working in a climate of trust and respect, they are better able to contribute, collaborate and challenge outdated attitudes, approaches and ways of working. Inclusion must stem from the company’s decision-makers, as the principles and policies set out by them will be rolled out across the business, and their attitude sets an example for others to follow.

On the whole, while organisations are slowly becoming more inclusive, in 2021, there are fewer LGBTQ+ CEOs in the FTSE 100 than there were in 2018. Evidently, more emphasis must be placed on ensuring those in the boardroom are an accurate depiction of wider society.

For those who already have a seat, reverse mentoring can be an excellent way to raise awareness of the challenges faced by more junior employees, opening difficult conversations and resulting in a more understanding, empathic senior leadership team. It also opens a new communication channel for employees to get their voice heard. For example, they may raise questions around the lack of a ‘transitioning at work’ policy and be able to provide invaluable insight into what support may be needed.

Additionally, sponsorship is a powerful way to support high potential diverse talent within an organisation. By having the confidence and weight of a senior leader behind them, a trans employee will have access to networks, career development opportunities and be advocated for without even needing to be in the room. Sponsorship is a great way to open doors for talent who may otherwise find it difficult to gain a seat at the table.

If organisations are to overcome archaic beliefs, realise the true consequences of discrimination, and let go of unconscious biases, business leaders need to make rapid progress in educating themselves and their workforce, then follow up with appropriate action. Those that fail to do so risk losing the opportunity to work with some of their sector’s most valuable employees.

INvolve’s Inclusive Leadership Program focuses on upskilling senior leaders to become active advocates of inclusion, providing the practical tools which can be applied to the day-to-day workings of the business, and is a great starting point for organisations looking to become more inclusive in all aspects.