Post submitted by Deena Fidas, HRC’s Director of Workplace Equality and Beck Bailey, HRC’s Deputy Director of Employee Engagement
More than ever before, America’s largest companies are leading the way on LGBTQ inclusion. Most strikingly, employers are committing to expanding and developing policies, practices and benefits that ensure the equal treatment of their transgender employees.
Since its inception in 2002, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) has tracked the phenomenal progress employers have made toward achieving full LGBTQ workplace inclusion. Today, 87 percent of CEI-rated companies provide employment non-discrimination protection based on gender identity to their employees in the U.S. and abroad. That’s up from 5 percent when the CEI was introduced 14 years ago.
The 2016 CEI report found that a record-breaking 511 employers – 60 percent of the companies rated in the index – specifically affirm coverage for transgender healthcare in at least one of their employer-provided plans. This is up from a mere handful of companies less than a decade ago. The progress has been steady.
These policies and benefits are not just words on a paper or a score in a report. They translate into countless transgender workers gaining life-saving healthcare and life-affirming support. We see the success stories: transgender people who successfully come out in the workplace with company support and are able to continue to happily and productively contribute in their jobs.
But despite this progress, we continue to hear the frustration of a highly-qualified transgender woman who makes it to the final in-person interview for the ‘perfect role’ only to see the palpable confusion on the interviewer’s face when she walks through the door — a look that tells her she’s never getting a call back. We know the familiar story of the transgender man who never experiences overt hostility or harassment from his colleagues, but suffers in isolation – never getting asked to lunch or to be on the project team – with his productivity nose-diving right alongside his spirit.
We see talented, young, gender non-conforming and genderqueer people questioning whether there is a place for them to be their full, authentic selves at work. Allies who championed critical policy changes know they are just beginning a journey to full inclusion. Unfortunately, few tools exist to promote inclusion and tackle difficult conversations internally.
That is why HRC Foundation is releasing Transgender Inclusion In the Workplace: A Toolkit for Employers, a comprehensive resource to guide employer transgender inclusion efforts. The toolkit includes HRC’s best practice guidance on transgender inclusive policies and practices (including sample policies) as well as guidance for implementing transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits. Addressing the gap in training and education materials, the toolkit includes scenario-based learning that uses real life examples from HRC’s work with businesses to illuminate the everyday experiences of transgender workers on the job.
To help bring the everyday experiences of transgender people to life, the toolkit includes a five-part video series featuring transgender and gender non-conforming workers alongside HRC staff and the chief diversity officer of the Brown-Forman Corporation, Ralph de Chabert. An ally at one of the nation’s largest wine and spirits companies, he describes the company’s journey:
“At Brown-Forman, when we realized we had gaps in our inclusive approach for transgender people, we quickly got over the disappointment we felt in ourselves and took the necessary steps to effect change. We had meetings with transgender speakers; we began networking within the transgender community and we made it clear that we are an organization where transgender people will have an equal opportunity to be hired, to be developed and to succeed.
We are encouraged by the steps we have taken with our policies, practices and healthcare benefits yet we know that there is so much more that we need to do, if our ambitions are going to be realized. To that end, we continue to educate our employees in order to create an environment of understanding and openness because exclusion hurts. It is an awful feeling that gets in the way of being creative, productive and innovative. Quite frankly, it is unhealthy for the individual, our company and our communities in which we live and work.”
There is still much work to do. The good news is that so many major employers are already invested in transgender inclusion, and with this toolkit they can strengthen this investment and take the necessary next steps to promoting a true culture of inclusion.
As corporations continue to embrace inclusive policies, practices and benefits for transgender workers, we know that businesses have significant work ahead before every workplace experience and culture is truly and fully inclusive of transgender people. Every worker deserves opportunity to thrive and produce in a safe, welcoming, and innovative workplace.
Check out the entire toolkit at www.hrc.org/transtoolkit.
This week, HRC marks Transgender Week of Awareness, dedicated to the progress, continued challenges, and unfinished work in the fight for transgender equality. Throughout the week, HRC will dedicate each day to urgent and important issues facing the transgender community, including support for youth and families, workplace equality, access to life-saving and inclusive health care, and combatting violence against the transgender community. The week concludes with with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 when the community comes together for vigils around the country to honor those lost in the past year. Learn more at hrc.im/TransAwarenessWeek.