Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender bias, racial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, age bias, and now trans bias and transgender discrimination in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
60% of transgender people have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. 38% have experienced it from colleagues, 25% from management, and 29% during job interviews.
Which really makes it unsurprising that 53% have felt the need to hide their trans status from colleagues.
But why, in 2022, is this still happening? And what can businesses do to prevent transphobia and transgender discrimination in the workplace?
The ugly stats
The unemployment rate for transgender adults is twice that of cisgender adults.
Even if they are in employment, cisgender adults make 32% more per year, regardless of whether a trans person has similar—or higher—education levels.
Not only do trans people earn less, but two-thirds of them remain in the closet at work.
Sadly, they feel like employers support them less than their cisgender colleagues in the workplace. Given the stats we’ve already looked at, is that really surprising?
Overcoming transgender discrimination in the workplace to include more trans people could create a $12 billion boost to annual consumer spending.
It would help businesses to really understand their market, and give them more diverse opinions to solve their customers’ problems. Which may also give them a competitive advantage.
Let’s not forget that diverse companies are significantly more profitable!
A long way to go
Even though the UK’s Equality Act (2010) should protect LBGT people from workplace discrimination, a 2018 report found that 43% of businesses were unsure if they’d hire a trans person, and almost a third said they’d be “less likely” to hire a trans person.
The retail sector had the highest number of businesses unlikely to hire a trans person, at 47%. IT was close behind with 45%.
Construction and engineering were the most agreeable to the idea, but even then, 25% of businesses reported they’d be unlikely to hire a trans person.
That’s still a large percentage of the industry that’s closed off to the idea of hiring someone because of their gender. These businesses are just perpetuating transgender discrimination in the workplace.
The trouble with ‘culture fit’
Unsurprisingly, only 3% of businesses have an equal opportunities policy that welcomes transgender people to apply for roles. Which could be off-putting for potential candidates because they’ll have no idea whether their colleagues will welcome and support them if they join.
Only 8% of that small group of businesses that have a trans hiring policy believe trans people deserve the same rights to a job as everyone else.
This stat seems odd to me, but it came from the same survey as the industry stats. It seems to suggest that even the businesses with a trans hiring policy in place may only have it as a form of lip service. I really hope that’s me being cynical, but then, it gets worse.
Only 4% believe they have a diverse enough workplace culture where trans people can “fit in.”
If you hire someone purely based on cultural fit, you end up with a culture of zombies. Everyone thinks, looks, and acts the same way. Innovation becomes harder and groupthink becomes more common.
Hiring someone based on cultural fit alone isn’t an option anymore.
You want someone who’s different because they’re the very skills, opinions, and attitudes that your business lacks. If you embrace them, they’ll be the ones who help you to outperform your competitors.
There really isn’t a downside to avoiding employing the same person over and over again.
What can employers do?
Leaders within a business need to set an example. If they’re active supporters of the trans community, and they hire trans employees, the rest of the company will follow. And if someone doesn’t support these decisions, they don’t belong in the new environment.
Creating a diverse workforce requires a mindset shift from those at the very top of the business. That mindset will trickle down over time.
If leaders don’t set an example, employees will believe they can get away with discriminatory attitudes, policies, and hiring processes because they either don’t know that they’re doing it, or they’re still full of prejudices and don’t see a reason to change.
Many people don’t have the right language to talk about transgender experiences, or they worry about offending someone. Meaning that transgender experiences get ignored or erased.
The transgender community has a lot more visibility now than it did a few years ago, but onscreen representation takes time to trickle down into everyday society.
Education, support, and community are important here. Documentaries like Disclosure explore how trans people have been depicted in film over the years and how that’s impacted American culture. It shows that we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.
There are also plenty of online resources that can help employers to educate themselves on how to best support trans employees.
When it comes to the hiring process, a blind process only goes so far. It won’t change the prejudice that can come from an in-person interview.
And the prejudice is big—44% of trans people feel an employer has turned them down for a job because they were trans. Clearly, transgender discrimination in the workplace is still a very real and pressing problem.
One thing I noticed when doing my research for this blog post is that all of the stats are high. Higher than they are for any other underrepresented group. And the odds are really stacked against trans people in ways we need to talk about more.
20% have been, or are currently, homeless. Trans people are also four times as likely to live in poverty. Businesses can play a role in changing these stats. Your business can play a role in changing these stats.
The trans community is heavily discriminated against. The workplace is just one of the places where they have to deal with transphobia just to pay the bills.
Employers have an obligation to set an example to their employees who may be responsible for transgender discrimination in the workplace. They also have a responsibility to educate themselves.
They can then use that education to start meaningful conversations within the business to develop more inclusive policies, and help to create a more supportive workforce for trans employees.
If you’re looking to break down biases and drive real belonging at your organization, Workrowd can help. Check out our suite of tools for ensuring that every team member can get fully immersed in your company culture from day one, alongside real-time analytics. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.