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Transgender Americans Still Face Workplace Discrimination Despite Some Progress

While US companies have made significant strides in creating workplaces that are more inclusive of transgender individuals, discrimination and employment penalties remain.



This article is republished from The Conversation under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original article.

Activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 to honor the memory of those whose lives were lost due to trans prejudice and hatred.

In that spirit of reflection, the day serves as an opportune time to examine how the opportunities and experiences of transgender individuals in the workplace have changed – particularly at a time when some government officials are openly advocating policies that discriminate against them.

I’ve been researching diversity and inclusion in a variety of settings including sports and work for nearly two decades. The good news is that my work and that of my peers shows transgender individuals have made significant strides in the workplace. The bad news is that many hurdles remain to equal opportunity and an end to discrimination.


Various indicators and signs point to meaningful improvements in the access, treatment and opportunities for transgender employees.

One such indicator is the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, an annual assessment of policies and benefits for LGBT individuals in Fortune 500 companies. In 2002, only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies had nondiscrimination polices based on gender identity. That figure was 83 percent in the most recent report, which came out in 2018.

Human Rights Campaign 2016 Corporate Equality Index Best Places to Work Reception / photo credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The report also shows that most Fortune 500 companies now include transgender-inclusive medical benefits. In 2002, no companies offered such provisions.

Another measure of how much things have changed is in the willingness of corporate giants and their CEOs to oppose policies that discriminate against trandsgender individuals.

A recent example is when President Donald Trump said he would seek to legally define gender as immutably male or female. Coca-Cola, Apple, JP Morgan Chase and dozens of other major U.S. companies swiftly signaled their opposition.

Another is the backlash that has followed legislative efforts to limit the rights of transgender individuals to use pubic restrooms. North Carolina, for example, was estimated to lose US$3.76 billion over a dozen years after companies nixed plans to build facilities in the state or canceled concerts because of the “bathroom bill” lawmakers passed. They later repealed it.

My own research with a colleague shows why corporate America is taking a stand: Most consumers value inclusiveness. Participants in a study we conducted in 2014 interpreted LGBT-inclusive statements by organizations as a signal that the company valued all forms of diversity. As a result, the consumers’ attraction to the organization increased.


Despite the progress, hurdles still exist, impeding full trans inclusion in the workplace.

A study I conducted with another colleague in 2017, for example, showed that, although attitudes toward transgender individuals have improved over time, they still lag behind perceptions toward lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals.

Legal scholars from UCLA’s Williams Institute have shown that transgender people earn less and are more likely to be unemployed than their cisgender peers – whose gender corresponds to their birth sex. In fact, in 2011, one in seven transgender individuals earned $10,000 or less a year, while the unemployment rate for trans people of color was nearly four times the national rate.

For those who are employed, they routinely face discrimination. In another study out of the Williams Institute, state law and policy director Christy Mallory and colleagues found that more than one in four reported being fired, passed over for promotion or not being hired in the past year because of their gender identity and expression.

Others are aware of the mistreatment. In a survey of Texans – a state where employment discrimination against transgender individuals is legal – 79 percent of the respondents agreed that LGBT individuals face workplace discrimination.

Texans are not alone. According to the Movement Advancement Project, an organization whose mission is to promote equality for all, 48 percent of LGBT individuals live in states lacking employment protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


The evidence suggests transgender individuals have made progress in the workplace, but they still face considerable barriers. What, then, can employers do to create more inclusive environments?

Legal protections are key. Organizational psychologists Laura Barron and Michelle Hebl have shown that the presence of anti-discrimination ordinances and laws decrease bias in employment decision making. Absent federal protections, states and cities can ensure all people have employment protections, irrespective of their gender identity and expression.

Organizational leaders also make a difference. My research shows that leader advocacy and role modeling are critical when creating and sustaining an inclusion culture. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, has a history of strongly advocating for LGBT rights. It is little wonder, then, that Apple is routinely listed among the most LGBT-friendly companies.

The Apple contingent in the 2014 Austin Pride Parade / photo credit: Chase Martin / therepubliq

Finally, co-workers play an important role, especially when they serve as allies. These are persons who advocate for transgender equality in the workplace and try to create welcoming, inclusive spaces. Allies seek to create social change, leading the charge at times and supporting their transgender colleagues in other instances.

Transgender inclusion helps all involved. Employee engagement and performance improves, as does their psychological and physical health. Diverse and inclusive organizations outperform their peers on objective measures of success, such as stock market performance.

Thus, the path forward – one that clears the hurdles in place and creates an inclusive environment – is one that can benefit everyone.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US. A complete list of partners and funders can be viewed here.

The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit publisher of commentary and analysis, authored by academics and edited by journalists for the general public.

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Study: Women, People of Color, LGBTQ Face Hostile Workplace in Tech



Photo credit: Death to Stock Photography

According to a new study, more than a third of tech workers surveyed have left their job due in part to unfairness in the workplace with dramatically differing experiences for women, underrepresented people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees. It is estimated that turnover due to unfairness cost the tech industry over $16 billion annually.

The Tech Leavers Survey from the Kapor Center for Social Impact is the first nationwide study of why people leave tech jobs. Conducted by the Harris Poll between December 19, 2016 and January 19, 2017, the study sample included 2,006 U.S. residents, ages 18+, who have left a job in a technology-related industry or left a technology function within the last three years. The sample included a total of 142 individuals (7%) who identified as LGBTQ. — 67% White or Asian and 32% Black, Latinx, or Native American/Alaskan Native. The survey sponsored in large part by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

“Tech companies spend millions of dollars finding, recruiting and onboarding top-level talent, but the data show they must focus real attention on retaining the talent they’ve got.” said Dr. Allison Scott, Chief Research Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact and lead author of the Tech Leavers Study. “Unfair, non-inclusive and subtly-toxic cultures drive people out, and the trends are particularly pronounced for women, LGBTQ employees, and underrepresented people of color.”


Unfairness Drives Turnover
Unfairness or mistreatment within the work environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving, with 37% of the sample indicating that unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company.

Experiences Differ Dramatically Across Groups
Nearly a quarter of underrepresented men and women of color experienced stereotyping, twice the rate of White and Asian men and women, and almost one-third of underrepresented women of color were passed over for promotion–more than any other group. LBGTQ employees were most likely to be bullied (20%) and experience public humiliation or embarrassment (24%). Notably, employees within tech companies experienced significantly more unfairness than employees in non-tech companies.

Unfairness Costs Billions Each Year
In addition to the $16B annual cost to unfairness in tech workplaces, there are also reputational costs. More than a third of former employees said their experiences would make them less likely to refer others to seek a job at their former employer, and another quarter said they would be less likely to recommend others to buy or use products or services from their former employer.

While 81% of LGBTQ-identified employees experienced some form of unfairness in their previous workplace, roughly the same amount of experiences as their non-LGBTQ employees, LGBTQ employees had the highest rates of public humiliation and bullying of any group of employees. LGBTQ employees were much more likely to experience bullying (20%) and public humiliation (24%) than their non-LGBTQ colleagues (13% and 13%).

Bullying and public humiliation were directly related to turnover for LGBTQ employees, with 64% of LGBTQ employees who were bullied and 62% of LGBTQ employees who were publicly humiliated saying the experience contributed to their decision to leave. Bullying was also strongly related to length of employment; the more bullying experienced, the shorter the length of time that employees remained at their previous company.

“I was treated as an other, excluded, and undervalued in my office. I was ignored, and it was made apparent that I was a ‘diversity hire.’ I was told I was ‘too sensitive,’” commented an anonymous black female developer. “I was told that other black and lesbian folks in the office didn’t feel as I did, after mentioning homophobic and racist jokes being spewed in work-only chat channels.”

A white trans engineer commented, “I was grossly underpaid, and my experiences of marginalization as a minority was dismissed by my manager, whose general disrespect and maltreatment of me caused high levels of stress and job dissatisfaction.”

“These are self-inflicted wounds,” said Freada Kapor Klein, Co-Chair at the Kapor Center for Social Impact and co-author of the report. “We’ve all read the anecdotes about tech engineers leaving their company with scathing descriptions of disrespectful work environments. Now we’ve got the data to back it up. While it’s worse than we expected, there are specific actionable steps companies can take to decrease unfairness and increase retention of diverse talent..”

The good news is that the study shows that tech workplaces can take proactive steps to retain talent, particularly those most likely to leave.


Implement Comprehensive D&I Strategies
Develop and implement a diversity and inclusion strategy that starts with unequivocal leadership from the CEO and executive team, is comprehensive, and implements multiple initiatives, measures the effectiveness of strategies, and allows for course-correct when needed.

Create Inclusive Cultures
Identify a set of core values, develop a code of conduct, and strive to create and continuously evaluate and improve the culture. Conduct employee surveys at regular intervals, examine data by each demographic group, provide transparency about culture issues and act upon the endings, addressing areas of concern.

Develop Effective and Fair Management Processes
Audit performance management and compensation practices for potential biases and implement management training and bias-mitigating strategies (including people operations technology tools) in all stages of the employment lifecycle.

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Out & Equal Issues Guidelines For Gender-Diverse, Transgender Employees in the Workplace



Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a non-profit dedicated to achieving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workplace equality, will debut its Workplace Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines at the organization’s annual Workplace Summit. The summit, to be held October 5-8, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, will feature over 3,000 attendees representing more than 600 of the Fortune 1000 companies from 31 countries with discussion on advances in LGBT workplace equality, including the Workplace Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines.

“There are great disparities in workplace equality that disproportionately affect the transgender community. The Workplace Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines emerged from overwhelming requests from our corporate partners asking how to best support their transgender and gender-diverse employees.”

Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Founder and CEO

As a part of an Out & Equal Transgender Advisory Committee initiative, the Workplace Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines, available worldwide to companies seeking to fully understand how to best support their transgender and gender-diverse employees and coworkers, outlines best practices for creating workplaces that are safe, welcoming and inclusive for these employees.

“There are great disparities in workplace equality that disproportionately affect the transgender community. The Workplace Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines emerged from overwhelming requests from our corporate partners asking how to best support their transgender and gender-diverse employees,” said Out & Equal Founder and CEO Selisse Berry. “I am proud of the guidelines we’re presenting and confident that they will foster more inclusive policies and more welcoming workplaces for everyone in the LGBT community.”

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Delta Assumes Tax Burden Employees in Same-Sex Relationships



Delta Air Lines has announced that, effective immediately, employees who cover same sex domestic partners under Delta’s healthcare plans will no longer be responsible for any federal or state income or payroll tax burden associated with this coverage. Delta will now pay those taxes on behalf of these employees retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. This will result in parity of the cost of health care coverage between same-sex domestic partners and employees in legally recognized marriages regardless of U.S. location.

“While this issue remains unsettled on a national level, Delta’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect is rooted deeply in the airline’s values and culture,” said Joanne Smith, Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. “By providing equality in this critically important area of benefit costs for employees with same-sex domestic partners, we will continue to build a great place to work.”

During the last two years, many states have begun to recognize same sex marriage. This month, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on and decide whether same-sex marriage bans are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. In addition to the airline’s announcement, Delta also participated in a brief urging the Court to support marriage equality. A ruling is due by the end of June.

On a global scale, Delta is committed to maintaining and supporting a culture of inclusion. As the largest employer in Georgia and one of the largest employers in Minnesota, Delta extends domestic partner benefits to its employees, including health, dental and life insurance, as well as pension and flight benefits.

Throughout the years, Delta and its employees have continued to build and expand its strong relationship with the LGBT community around the world. Delta supports regional Pride events in cities nationwide including Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City and Seattle with hundreds of employees marching to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. Delta continues to be a proud underwriter of the GLAAD Media Awards and Platinum sponsor for the Atlanta HRC Dinner. Delta is the official airline of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, one of the most recognized and important organizations fighting the AIDS epidemic worldwide.

Additionally, Delta employees actively support and participate in DEEN, the Delta Employee Equality Network, a voluntary organization committed to making Delta the best place to work by promoting inclusion, respect for differences, equal opportunity and diversity in the workplace.

Source: Delta assumes tax burden for employees in same-sex relationships. Delta News Room.

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