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The Trans Experience and Education: Including and Welcoming a Gender Diverse Workforce

06 September 2021

This blog was written by guest author, Beth Tappenden. Beth is a student at the University of Edinburgh and is researching how employers can better educate their workforces on transgender issues and improve inclusivity and equality for transgender employees and has produced this survey to inform her research.

Understanding LGBTQIA+ identities can be challenging, especially when navigating such a topic professionally. It is daunting trying to actively provide support for those of non-normative gender and sexuality when unsure what type of support to provide. Sending either direct or indirect signals of support for LGBTQIA+ individuals at work can make employees feel more comfortable, encourage a higher sense of belonging and engagement, and increase their trust in colleagues and employers. Proactively signalling such an inclusive and welcoming environment, can also make others feel more at ease and able to be themselves in the workplace.

Although transgender people make up a small amount of the general population, they experience high levels of discrimination due to lack of understanding and knowledge regarding their identity. Providing training and materials to better understand the trans experience can prepare your workforce to support a transgender client or colleague, as well as equipping them to support other gender diverse individuals. So how can you support transgender identities in a professional setting?

Supporting Trans and Gender Diverse Employees

All individuals have different relationships with their sexuality and gender identity, as such it’s a great idea to provide guidelines of support – multiple options and networks - while encouraging the employee to inform you how they would like to be supported. Below are some tips on how to support trans and LGBTQIA+ identifying employees.

  • Let transgender and gender diverse people lead the conversation, informing you how to professionally support them
  • Update policies and official networks of support – have specific policies and channels to support identity specific experiences (ie. gender transitions) while ensuring all other policies are gender neutral and inclusive
  • Educate your workforce on a regular basis, not in reaction to disclosure of a gender diverse employee
  • Be aware of not ‘outing’ a gender diverse person if they have not disclosed their identity publicly, this is especially relevant if old pronouns and names are on official documentation
  • Enquire about an individual’s pronouns and/or possible change in name if unsure how to address an individual, don’t be afraid to correct others if they get this wrong!

There are many ways that work can be made to feel accepting, inclusive and welcoming, a great way to influence the social aspect of your workforce is to educate them on various identities so they are equipped to provide proactive forms of support when individuals disclose LGBTQIA+ identities. In collaboration with Business in the Community (BITC) and DWF, I was able to conduct a study on how workforces should be educated on transgender identities, in order to foster inclusive and accepting professional environments. Below are the results of the study.

Training on Trans Identities

The study identified that the best way to execute training on transgender identities is through an interactive (in-person) workshop. This should be done – as should the rest of the workshop – to encourage discussion, participation and engagement with the topic of gender diversity. The study also advises:

  • (if possible) the workshop be run by a transgender person – from outside your organisation, no trans employee should be asked to take on this responsibility
  • Training should include a refresher on language surrounding gender diversity and define/update terms
  • The workshop should focus on discussing and practicing interactions with gender diverse employees ex. Practicing correct pronoun use
  • Aim of Training: to engage and empathise with the experience of transgender professionals

The main take-away from the study was that people are more proactive in engaging and seeking out their own means of education on a topic when they feel they have a personal connection with the subject. Therefore, the aim of any engagement with trans identities should be to help groups and individuals relate to the experience of trans people. This can be done by getting a trans person to come talk about their own lived experience (this should not be a transgender employee in your organisation unless they take the initiative to volunteer for such a task) or through sharing the stories of other trans individuals. 

If this is not possible, it’s a great idea to ask employees to consider their own gender identity. Everyone experiences the same gender dynamics and power relations informed by gender at work, engaging employees with their own gender, might help them empathise with how a trans person’s professional life can be affected by their gender identity. 

Inclusivity at Work

Important to remember when supporting gender diverse people at work, is that everyone wants to be understood and belong regardless of their identity. While adhering to the advice above is a great way to start conversations about gender diversity, creating a socially accepting and inclusive environments is about connecting with the individual to understand their needs and wishes for professional support.

This blog was written by guest author, Beth Tappenden. Beth is a student at the University of Edinburgh writing a dissertation for a HRM Masters. Beth is researching how employers can better educate their workforces on transgender issues and improve inclusivity and equality for transgender employees and has produced this survey to inform her research. In collaboration with Business in the Community (BITC) and DWF, Beth conducted a study on how workforces should be educated on transgender identities, in order to foster inclusive and accepting professional environments.

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