In the ongoing, and often intense, conversation about improving workplace diversity, equity and inclusion, many employers may be missing the mark when it comes to employees in one particular group: the trans community.
In a far-ranging recent webinar hosted by Mogul and Accenture–entitled Growth Workshop: Creating a Trans-Inclusive World–Beck Bailey, managing director of inclusion and diversity at Accenture, tackled that issue. It’s one that has been making headlines in recent weeks, as controversy over comedian Dave Chappelle’s transphobic comments reached the workplace: Hundreds of Netflix employees walked off the job last week to protest the platform’s refusal to pull the problematic Chappelle special and have since pressed to meet personally with the comedian.
While employers clearly have a ways to go in terms of providing trans-inclusive workplaces, Bailey, who also spent nearly seven years with national LGBTQ organization Human Rights Campaign, did focus on the positive.
For example, he noted, more than 400 employers in the U.S. have signed on to support the Equality Act, legislation (already passed by the House) that would prohibit discrimination in employment and other sectors based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite years of advocacy, both categories have yet to be incorporated into federal nondiscrimination laws, though there is a patchwork of state laws that outlaw LGBTQ discrimination.
“Why shouldn’t those employees have equal rights and protections that we have for race and ethnicity, or for gender or disabilities?” Bailey said. Two years ago, the measure was reintroduced to Congress along with an organized push by 167 employers, a number that has since more than doubled. “Here, we have all of these leading employers saying, ‘We support that legislation.’ ”
Bailey adds that many of those same employers agree that, “at least within the walls of our business, we’re going to be inclusive, and we’re going to have policies that support the larger LGBTQ community, and trans and non-binary people in particular.”
Yet, there’s more to be done beyond making pledges. He points out that building an inclusive, equitable workplace is heavily dependent on each manager and team. For example, if those two entities don’t share the same level of understanding of the issues involved, it likely would pose a major roadblock to success.
“Maybe [a manager or team members have] never met a transgender person before. So this is all new to them,” he said.
See also: Why every part of HR needs to step up for LGBTQ employees
Bailey explained that employers must think about continually messaging their support, so if an employee does come out in the workplace, they can “swoop in” and support that team “at that moment … to learn more, to do better, to be better around that individual.”
To help HR and employers with this effort, Bailey suggested connecting with organizations like HRC and other advocates for equality in the workplace. Local LGBTQ organizations can also often offer trans-inclusive toolkits, guidelines and effective sample workplace policies.
Another major opportunity for HR to move the needle is through allyship programs, focusing on how colleagues and leaders can best support and develop trans people within the workplace.
“Allyship comes in many, many forms,” he said. “And the best allies understand that there is always more to learn–especially [about] how people with multiple, marginalized identities have different hurdles than people with a singular one.”
Related: What the SCOTUS ruling means for LGBTQ employees
Bailey said the best allies are “visible,” whether that means by wearing a trans-supportive badge or even just including preferred pronouns in their email signature.
“So often, marginalized people are doing all that labor for themselves. It’s often perceived as self-serving,” he said. “That’s where it helps to have allies. It helps to have cis-gender people saying, ‘We should have trans benefits.’ ”
Bailey also highlighted the importance of holding managers accountable in pursuit of inclusion and diversity and their impact on culture.
“It should be part of how employers measure manager performance,” Baily said. “If you don’t measure them that way, what incentive do they have to spend time thinking about it, and investing the time in their own education?”