January 30, 2023

Transgender Justice in Our Workplaces

There are so many ways in which workplaces can and need to focus on justice and inclusion BEFORE a staff member who identifies as transgender is hired.

On January 19th, Non Profit Quarterly sponsored a fantastic webinar entitled “Transgender Justice in Our Workplaces.” The presenters were: Alex Lee, Deputy Director and Ollin Rodriguez Lopez, HR & Administrative Associate of LGBTQ Funders for LGBTQ issues; as well as Cathy K. Kapua, the Deputy Director Trans Justice Funding Project. They covered a wide range of topics related to the experience of, and ways to support, transgender people in the workplace.

The webinar discussed the difficulties faced by transgender people when trying to find supportive workplaces that are also financially sustainable (transgender people are 4 times as likely to be living on $10,000 or less/year). A number of attendees offered their own personal experience in the chat and Q&A about how uncomfortable it is to be the first/only transgender employee in a workplace).

The panel also offered workplace policy recommendations that promote inclusion and how to build these practices into organizational budgets. Workplace policy recommendations include:

○ Posting on a wide variety of job boards and being upfront about compensation and benefits in the job description;

○ Using a hiring matrix to evaluate the strength of candidates and reduce bias;

○ Asking repeatedly during hiring practices if candidates’ values align with those of your organization;

○ Insuring that the onboarding/HR process identifies preferred names/pronouns. If there are legal contexts in which a dead name must be used, work with the employee to decide on how to handle that;

○ Pronouns usage at all meetings;

○ Gender neutral bathrooms at work, and at off-site for conferences and staff retreats;

○ Having a trans consulting firm lead internal training on transgender, gender non-binary, gender nonconforming competency, transgender care, and dismantling transphobia.

Many of the suggestions offered centered around wellness and self-care, which are principles applicable to all employees. Some are low-cost ideas like remote days, option to conduct meetings with cameras off, time off for appointments to tend to physical and mental health, and general understanding of how our health and traumas affect our work life.

Other ideas require budgeting and years of advance planning, but the value they offer to staff is many times that and goes beyond financial support. These examples include:

○ Gender Identity Wellness Fund

○ Reproductive Justice Fund

○ Childcare / Dependent Care Fund

○ Childcare / Dependent Care Travel Stipend

The webinar also addressed how operations and finance are sometimes given a pass on how to implement inclusive and equitable policies. One of the presenters offered the following statement about why implementation of inclusive and equitable workplace policies and practices have to be expected at all levels of an organization:

“Finance, Human Resources, and Operations are about the allocation of assets and should align with racial, economic, and gender justice movements. They are not neutral fields. We make choices. Our choices reinforce structural inequities, resulting in continued harm to Black and brown people. These groups are the most severely impacted by racial, gender, LGBTQ, age, disability, social, educational, health, environmental, and economic inequalities in our communities. In the 2023, we will use our budgets and policies as the official records of these choices.

Finance, Human Resources, and Operations choices are about power. And, this year and beyond, we intentionally commit to doing our best not to forget this, not to let you forget it, and not to be complacent with the patriarchal, sexist, white supremacist structures in place. There is joy in our work. There is magic in our work. It is a myth that our work is neutral.”

The primary and most fundamental takeaway was that the absolute best way to create a hospitable and justice-oriented workplace is to ask for feedback from employees and involve them in the process. Annual Employee Benefit Surveys are essential, as well as frequent and less formal requests for feedback on policies and procedures.

There are so many ways in which workplaces can and need to focus on justice and inclusion BEFORE a staff member who identifies as transgender is hired. Waiting until after a hire is made almost guarantees unhappiness and dissatisfaction from the person you hired to be an asset to the work being done.