When I’m presenting to Employers, one of my core themes is about the embracing the challenges of creating a respectful and accepting environment within the work place for gender variant people.
It’s not easy. They’re tough to give and listen to. It’s a complex subject to get across. Even in a presentation that lasts a few hours. Even for professional advocates like myself, the landscape of what’s required is constantly changing and in these times of cost cutting, the temptation is to reduce everything to the bare (legal) minimum and assume that ticking the box marked “training” is enough.
But it needn’t be like that. Businesses are all about making money. Whether it’s to give to shareholders or employees, the money generated comes from productivity. Productivity comes from engaged employees, empowered to make their best contribution and it’s at this point that transgender diversity makes sense. Put simply. It affects the bottom line.
So how do you create a respectful environment for gender variant people ? For me, i encourage companies to focus on these 5 principles.
- Training is only the path that leads to the destination. As important as training is, on it’s own, it delivers nothing. Training has to inform, inspire and lead to innovation. Companies pay a lot for training, but if it ends when the “box is ticked” what value does it deliver ? Make it part of a wider programme, with outputs and progress reviews.
- Celebrate DIVERSITY. Your company is already diverse, more diverse than you think you know. It has different people, from different backgrounds, who celebrate different religions and have different educations. You probably already have gender variant people too <gasp>. All these people, different as they are, work for your company. Invite them to share what it is about their differences that makes your company good and through listening and innovating, how they can help you make it great.
- Is that process, Job or role really gender specific ? Companies are built on processes and tools which deliver products and services which you make money from. Do these really need to be gender specific ? Probably not. You need customer facing staff to be presented professionally, in uniform and to offer a consistent branded image for sure, but setting out rules for clothing (particularly if you aren’t going to provide it) is over burdensome and unnecessary. We don’t enshrine other differences, such as race or other physical features, into a legal identity, and we don’t have to put those differences endlessly onto forms. Yet we can still protect people on the grounds of those differences. What if we just ditched the M or F, the Mr, Mrs, Miss, and treated people as people? Here’s a thought, you could even use their names too !! This helps make for a more personal, less sexist workplace, too.
- Work needn’t be WORK. Although each Trans persons journey is as individual as they are, often their transition will involve some level of emotional trauma, which can throw their families and relationships into turmoil. But work needn’t be the same experience for them. High performing teams support one another, give them the chance to check and support each other privately and understand not just trans issues, but others too. Turn your workplace into an oasis for half an hour a week – maybe over lunch, don’t turn a blind eye as it turns into another place where your staff feel like a problem and Trans people are not fully accepted.
- Don’t assume Transgender people are going to be a problem. UnderstandConscious Bias and fight to work against it. I remember being asked in an interview how my clients deal with me being transgender. What on earth was I supposed to say ?!!?? Clearly the interviewed had some sort of concern or hang up about it, but this turned me off the company. If during my transition I had been outed, I would have expected my company to support me, not join in with any concerns. You’re interviewing me for my skills and talents, which will reflect on you as an employer. The role you are recruiting for isn’t dependent on my surgery, my gender, my clothing or whatever, just whether I am the best candidate. Treat me fairly and I’ll work my best for you. Treat me poorly and I won’t even join.
These are just my thoughts – would love to know yours and hear your experiences