Inclusive work cultures
Talent Published Date, 2023

How Inclusive Nonprofits Support Trans And Non-Binary Workers

Created By: Shaby T. Rosales

June 5, 2023

Despite encouraging progress in the establishment of more diverse and inclusive workplaces, full and fair rights for some workers still remain a major challenge. This is especially true for transgender and non-binary individuals, who have traditionally experienced levels of workplace discrimination, isolation, and harassment that surpass that of other marginalized groups. 

The lingering stigma associated with being a trans professional has harmful—and unacceptable—consequences. Trans individuals are too often discouraged from presenting as their full selves in professional and work environments. In fact, a report by McKinsey & Company states that trans employees report the lack of understanding and acceptance of their gender identity hinders job promotion and opportunities, making them twice as likely to be unemployed. The report also states that cisgender employees earn 32 percent more per year than transgender employees, even with similar education levels.

On his first day in office in January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting gay and transgender Americans against various forms of discrimination. The order states in part: “Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.”

So what needs to happen to ensure that employment and workplace inequities faced by the more than 2 million transgender people in the United States are addressed and not ignored? How do we directly address transphobia—and the related behavior and language—that impedes the progress of people of any gender identity?

It starts at the top. 

Absent a commitment from senior management, efforts to foster a truly inclusive environment for transgender individuals are certain to fail. 

“Despite a growing global awareness of the struggles trans people face, many employers remain ill-equipped to create the policies and workplace cultures that would support trans employees. Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about these challenges. Indeed, even companies that are LGBTQ+-friendly usually focus more on the ‘LGB’ than on the ‘TQ+,’” a 2020 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Creating a Trans-Inclusive Workplace” points out.

Nonprofit organizations have often been at the forefront of change and equity. Creating an inclusive workplace for transgender workers is crucial for fostering the type of supportive and affirming environments that empower your team and organization. By adopting trans-inclusive policies and providing support for gender transitions, employers can send a powerful message of acceptance and belonging. 

Below are some tips on how employers might support their trans workforce.

  • Adopt Trans-Inclusive Policies. Inclusive policies and practices—such as those related to bathroom access, dress codes, and pronoun and name usage—send vital messages to trans employees about their visibility and value as members of your organization. Encourage sharing of pronouns in written format – in signature lines, zoom handles, and other mediums – as well as included in interpersonal exchanges when meeting new colleagues or constituents for the first time. 
  • Support Gender Transitions. Transitioning is not a single event but, rather, a process, which begins with a deeply personal decision. The decision to disclose at work is also complicated. Employers must adopt a comprehensive people-first approach to managing gender transitions—one that focuses on the employee’s needs while also cultivating a work environment conducive to the transition process. Consider evaluation of benefit offerings, paid time off and leave allowances, and enhanced resources that may be made available through employer-specific platforms.
  • Develop Trans-Specific Diversity Training. General training on gender-identity topics is essential. While media coverage has helped facilitate conversations about gender identity and expression, diversity trainings still have room for improvement. Consider adding bystander intervention or workplace civility training to your learning and development framework and existing DEI curriculum. This type of action-oriented content can provide a unique opportunity for employees to take ownership of fostering an inclusive environment for all. Establishing a sense of belonging starts with a strong understanding of where natural points of division may appear and then working diligently to close the gap(s). Incorporating trans-specific content beyond the baseline approach of addressing gender identity may help nonprofit leaders better support their trans stakeholders. 

Advancing the inclusion and acceptance of transgender employees—and providing them with the opportunity to achieve their full potential at work—is in the best interest of everyone, including organizations looking to recruit and retain talent of any gender. It will not only benefit your trans team members personally but also enhances the collective success of the entire organization.

When trans people are made to feel respected and valued as workers—and encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work, your nonprofit becomes a space where diversity thrives, creativity flourishes, and impact is realized.

Diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace cultures are the healthiest and most productive. Orr Group can help you build from your values to promote policies and practices that allow your employees to feel valued, respected, and supported. Get in touch to learn more.

Shaby Rosales Headshot

Shaby Rosales is Partner and Chief Experience Officer at Orr Group. Shaby drives and manages the firm’s client experience function to ensure exceptional delivery of our services. In addition, Shaby brings nearly 20 years of progressive HR experience to provide guidance and leadership to Orr Group’s team.

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