Transgender inclusion is good for business

Forward-thinking Atlanta companies recognize that transgender inclusion is good for business. They know North Carolina lost nearly $400 million in revenue as a result of exclusionary legislation. Consequently, Georgia businesses are taking action to let transgender workers and customers know they are valued.

“We are renovating our customer restrooms and the employee locker rooms. How can we make them more trans-friendly?” The manager of the Atlanta Ikea store recently reached out to my transgender diversity consulting firm with this question.

Trans-friendly restrooms are just the beginning when it comes to the steps companies are taking to insure inclusion. Kaiser Permanente offers both care and coverage for their patients. They recently added transition-related coverage to all their insurance benefits nationally. To help employees understand their trans patients, they rolled out an online training module. To add a personal touch, Kaiser Permanente’s local business resource group, KP Pride, invited my company to do a training on respectful interactions with trans patients and colleagues. Emory Healthcare booked a similar training for their call center employees.

Training initiatives at progressive companies are being driven by an awareness that Georgia is one of four states with the highest population of trans people. According to a 2016 Williams Institute report, 0.08 percent of Georgia’s citizens, approximately 7,750 residents, are transgender.

Trans-inclusive local, national and international companies not only seek to provide customer service training; they also recognize transgender people in their marketing. Hallmark now has a greeting card celebrating a person’s gender transition. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, Nike aired a commercial featuring the first transgender athlete to make the U.S. men’s team. This year, Vicks released an advertisement highlighting the motherly love of a transgender woman in India.

Along with making transgender customers feel valued, companies are engaging in seven best practices to fully include their trans employees. First, companies provide training to help all their staff become more knowledgeable about transgender colleagues. Let’s face it, prior to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition in 2015, most Americans knew nothing about trans people. Consequently, people are just now in the process of learning about the transgender experience. Workplace trainings that create awareness of outdated, but deeply held, cultural assumptions about gender are a critical step in helping workers become accepting of trans colleagues. Such trainings need to be delivered in a variety of contexts over a period of time until transgender inclusion becomes a normal part of the workplace culture.

Companies that are serious about full trans inclusion also establish guidelines for employees who are transitioning. These guidelines spell out who is responsible for facilitating the various aspects of an employee’s transition, and indicate items to be included in a worker’s individualized transition timeline. Organizations share these guidelines with all current employees and new hires. Specialized training is provided for those most directly involved in facilitating an employee’s transition. One national financial institution hired us to consult with their C-suite to promote support from the top down for their new transitioning guidelines.

Trans-inclusive companies also provide transition-related coverage for employees and their dependents. As previously discussed, they work to create gender-inclusive bathrooms and locker rooms.

Talent acquisition and development is a fifth focus area. Companies engaging in best practices are intentional about including the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” in their recruiting materials. They strategically send recruiters to Pride festivals and belong to their local and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (which include trans-owned companies among their memberships).

Interacting with these chambers is also a great way for companies to grow their transgender supplier diversity. Going the proverbial “second mile” and financially sponsoring these, and other organizations that support trans people, is another way companies show their commitment to inclusion.

Georgia companies know that transgender inclusion is good business. As an Atlanta native, I am thrilled to see local businesses take concrete steps to

welcome my transgender siblings, and to put our many talents to use in the workplace.


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