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What Your Company Can Do to Build a Trans-Inclusive Workplace

November 13 to 19 is Transgender Awareness Week, which is a time that organizations around the country schedule events designed to educate the public about the challenges transgender people face, as well as celebrate the accomplishments of the community and advocate for a more equitable future. In the workplace, these kinds of activities are especially important because according to research by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 77 percent of trans workers feel so uncomfortable being authentic in the workplace that they go to great lengths to avoid being treated badly on the job—including keeping their identity a secret and leaving a company altogether.

This week of education and celebration is a good opportunity to make your workplace more trans-inclusive, which will go a long way toward meeting your DEI goals. The following are some suggestions on how to make your transgender employees feel more included at work, while providing opportunities to increase equity.

5 Ways to Create a Trans-Inclusive Workplace

1. Review and Change Policies

Making your workplace more inclusive for trans employees is built on a foundation of policies. Review your company's policies and make changes as needed. Some areas that you can address include allowing employees to use whatever bathroom they choose or making all bathrooms gender neutral; inclusive dress codes that let employees wear the professional attire of their choice irrespective of gender norms; and procedures that facilitate making employee names accurate in human resources systems, which shouldn't just apply to any legal name changes. Having support for a “preferred” name in HR and other business systems, especially when legal name change can be time-consuming and challenging, is also important for an employer to provide.

Allowing the employee control over when their new names, photos, and pronouns are shared with the company is also vital, as coming out to HR or a specific manager doesn’t mean someone’s ready to come out to the whole company. And creating a policy where all employees mention their pronouns will help normalize the use of pronouns in an organization and make it easier for trans workers to disclose their own.

In addition, it's important to have specific policies that address discrimination committed against those in the trans community. But it’s not enough to have policies on the books—they also need to be enforced when someone has been reported for breaking them. Strict enforcement will let all of your employees know they are safe in your workplace, and that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.

2. Support Employees During Their Transition

Transgender employees need support no matter where they are on their journey of transitioning. Your company can provide this support by offering healthcare plans that cover medical costs associated with the transition process and benefits that allow them to take time off as needed for their recovery. Also, it's important to recognize that transitioning can be very mentally and emotionally challenging for employees, so offering mental health assistance is another way to support trans employees.

But transition support is not purely about medical support or costs. Trans individuals often struggle with knowing when to begin being open with changes to their gender presentation at work, in fear of discrimination, confusion, or judgement. Educating your employees about work-appropriate dialogue regarding gender and setting clear guidelines against trans discrimination can help your team members feel at ease during the transition process.

3. Create ERGs for Trans Employees

Creating an employee resource group for your transgender workers is a way to give them a safe space where they can discuss their concerns, and also bond with each other and other employees who want to be allies. Another benefit of ERGs is that a representative from the executive team can attend meetings, so management is in a better position to directly address trans employees’ problems and make changes to meet their needs.

4. Provide Education for Staff

Transgender Awareness Week is a week of learning, so it's an excellent time to start educating all members of your staff about the needs of trans employees. Diversity training that centers around the transgender community can help cisgender workers understand their trans colleagues better, and learn how to avoid conscious and unconscious bias that can lead to possible discrimination in the workplace. These are challenging conversation to have, but they are vital toward building respect and teamwork among all employees.

5. Support Transgender Organizations

Showing people in the transgender community that you care about their concerns will make your current employees happy so you can retain them, and will attract great talent in the future. Supporting organizations that cater to the needs of trans people is a great way to demonstrate your support. You can plan for employees to volunteer for an organization during transgender week so everyone can contribute to the cause, or you can give regular donations to these groups. Whichever way you choose to lend your support, be sure to let people know on your diversity recruiting website and social media platforms so the public is aware of your commitment to the transgender community.

Transgender Awareness Week is a good opportunity to implement strategies that make your workplace more inclusive for current trans employees and potential employees. These tips can get you started so you can become more inclusive during this week of celebration and beyond.

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