The number of transgender people who hide their trans identity at work has risen sharply in the past five years. The Guardian reports on research by recruitment firm TotalJobs which shows almost two-thirds of trans people believe it is necessary to keep their identity secret from colleagues to feel safe and secure in their jobs - five years ago just over half of trans people felt this way. The report is based on a YouGov survey of over 400 trans workers, one of the largest research samples of its kind to date in the UK. The conclusion is that a lot more needs to be done to change attitudes and biases.
So it is timely that next Wednesday, 31 March, marks the 12th annual International Transgender Day of Visibility. This is the event that celebrates the resilience and success of transgender and non-binary people and raises awareness of transgender rights - an issue that is climbing ever higher on the HR agenda. It was founded by activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 who was inspired by the fact that there was no holiday dedicated to honouring the achievements and contributions of transgender people so an alternative was needed.
The figures show that in recent years transgender movements have been growing fast as a response to the biases which many people continue to assume about the transgender community. Day of Visibility focuses on the positive aspects of what being transgender means and it tries to take direct action in changing the biases of people who don’t understand transgender, including within in the workplace.
For our part we wanted to recognise the day, and shine a light on this issue - as a firm, we continue to be active in this area, working with a number of clients to improve trans-inclusivity. To that end we work closely with diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham on a range of projects in collaboration with clients. Rob Childe is one of the team of lawyers involved in that work. He joined me by video-link from Manchester. I asked what practical steps employers can take to improve inclusivity:
Rob Childe: “Well here are a number of things that I'd recommend employers think about if they are looking to become more trans inclusive and to go on that journey to becoming more inclusive. The first, I think, is to have a gender identity policy in place. Now this is a really useful tool for managers, employees, and HR to have access to, at the point that an individual comes forward and says that they're transitioning or that they are non binary or gender fluid etcetera. Now, this policy doesn't need to be long or complicated because the reality is that we know the journey that trans and non binary individuals go on is unique and is going to vary case by case. So the policy isn't comprehensively going to cover every eventuality but it's more a framework to enable the discussions to take place internally and it's also a really good signal to the rest of the workforce that the organisation takes trans inclusivity really seriously. The other step that I'd encourage employers to take is to have some diversity and inclusion training that specifically focuses on gender identity. So this is something that we offer either through our Employment Law Plus team or we also team up with an organisation called Global Butterflies who are an exclusively trans staffed training agency focusing on HR issues because time and time again, the case law tells us, that it's not enough simply to have a policy sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Employers need to make sure that they embed their policies and their commitment to inclusivity through directly training their staff and managers and HR etcetera. I think in terms of other things to think about, well, pronouns are a big one. So what can the organisation do to encourage the use of pronouns within the workforce, what steps can be taken to remove non inclusive language. So the classics would be to remove letters that go out saying 'Dear Sir' or Dear Madam' as they are seen not to be inclusive for obvious reasons. Another step that I would recommend employers look to take is to monitor gender identity when doing annual diversity staff surveys. This can be a really useful tool because it will show the organisation how many trans and non-binary employees there are, and that can act as a bit of a catalyst, or a motivator, to make a business case for employers to take steps to become more trans inclusive to support the wider workforce.”
Rob works closely with diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham. If you are interested in knowing more about the work they do, the clients they've worked with and some of the successful strategies they have implemented we suggest you visit their website. We have put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to website of diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham