In 1997, Lucent became the first Fortune 500 company to create workplace nondiscrimination practices thanks to the efforts of one employee, Mary Ann Horton, whose reasoning behind doing so was in an effort to help the trans community. She said, “Once a Fortune 500 pledged not to discriminate, I thought maybe some other companies might want to do that, too. So I started waving the flag in the trans community, encouraging others to bring it up.”
And she was right. Other companies like Apple and American Airlines followed suite in the 1990s and 2000s, especially when the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) pushed corporations to incorporate trans inclusive policies. Today, “92 percent of the companies on the index provided protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and 73 percent offered trans-inclusive health coverage.”
Sounds great, right? Well, not exactly. As implementing practices doesn’t mean that the workplace is actually trans-friendly.
Luca Maurer, who coauthored The Teaching Transgender Toolkit: A Facilitator’s Guide to Increasing Knowledge, Decreasing Prejudice, and Building Skills, with Dr. Eli R. Green, founder of the Transgender Training Institute, said, “There can be a significant gulf between policy, expectations, and behavior.”
Maurer’s insight is completely correct as a 2016 study by the National Center for Transgender Justice found some alarming things. Of the 6,450 transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were surveyed, 90% claimed that they experienced harassment or mistreatment at work and sometimes took actions to avoid it. Almost 50% of those surveyed also reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.
So what needs to happen in these companies that have nondiscrimination practices to actually make them trans-friendly?
Maurer has a few ideas, which we’ve summed up below, as well as added a few of our own:
- Have an easy process to change ID and emails.
- Incorporate workplace audits on policies and procedures to see if areas need to be improved to bring them up to the nondiscrimination policy standard.
- Implement online or in-person trans-inclusion and diversity trainings throughout the workplace, such as with TransReady.
- Requiring employees to do some of the lesson plans and take advantage of the resources found in Maurer’s book, The Teaching Transgender Toolkit: A Facilitator’s Guide to Increasing Knowledge, Decreasing Prejudice, and Building Skills.
- Survey employees to get a feel of the workplace environment and make adjustments to promote inclusivity.
While companies implementing nondiscrimination workplace policies makes for a great foundation, we hope that Corporate America really works to close the gap between policies and their employees, to create a truly trans-friendly environment.