22nd March 2018
Managing gender transition in the workplace
While the experiences of transgender icons such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have been a focus of mainstream media in recent years, discussions around gender transition are often muted in the corporate world.
Research has shown that transgender Australians often experience workplace discrimination. As more individuals begin their transition from one gender to another, managers need to prioritise reshaping work environments to celebrate diversity, and give every team member a safe environment to be themselves.
Employers who adopt a progressive and inclusive approach to gender not only increase employee welfare and mental health – they also create a work environment that supports forward thinking and innovation.
Whether your team has an individual who’s transitioning, or you’re looking to build a more inclusive workplace culture, here are 7 key ways Australian employers can manage gender transition at work.
1. Respect the individual needs and privacy of a transitioning employee.
Undergoing a gender transition is a taxing process, both physically and emotionally, so it’s important for the entire team to respect the privacy and needs of someone who is transitioning.
Transgender individuals should be able to transition at their own pace, and employers should talk to the individual before making any communication around a transition (such as to clients or other team members).
2. Publish inclusive policies around bathroom use and dress codes.
When an employee is transitioning, seemingly simple things can raise questions, such as which restroom to use and what clothes are appropriate in the workplace.
Build clear policies that allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. Give them the freedom to express their gender through their clothing, while also meeting the company’s dress code standards.
3. Support any medical requirements that a transitioning employee may need.
Transitioning employees may need to take time off for medical purposes, and should be able to use their sick leave or annual leave for this reason.
Update company HR policies to include clear guidelines for any employees who are transitioning, and also make sure to be considerate of any ongoing medication that an individual may need to take to support their transition.
4. Update any documentation containing gendered pronouns.
Legal names on company documents, gender pronouns, and communication materials are all part of the way team members express their identity in the workplace.
Employers should ask a transitioning employee what name and gender pronoun they prefer, then update any legal documentation, organisational charts, photo ID cards, email addresses, and business cards in line with this.
5. Establish an employee group or support network for transitioning employees.
Often transitioning team members are worried about their working relationship with clients or colleagues, bullying or sexual harassment issues, and discrimination.
Create a list of helplines and support networks that a transitioning individual can get in touch with, and identify someone – either internal or external – who can be a safe point of contact if they need support.
6. Update your company’s anti-discrimination policy.
Equality, inclusion and respect are incredibly important aspects of a healthy workplace. Adding gender transition into your workplace anti-discrimination policy is a key step for building an inclusive culture.
Clearly communicate anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies to your existing team, as well as any new team members who join.
7. Build a work culture that celebrates diversity.
One of the biggest challenges managers face in this space is building a workplace culture that celebrates individuals who undergo gender transitions, or identify as transgender. Building or changing your workplace culture doesn’t happen overnight – after all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Small actions can have a big impact, such as briefing HR teams with a clear plan for managing gender transition in the workplace, or sending company-wide emails that remind the whole team of policies around inclusion.
Also remember that it starts from the top. Some businesses have championed the idea of a ‘sponsor’ on the management team, who can help support an employee’s gender transition with inclusive communication to the whole team.
The corporate world is changing. To build and retain strong teams executives need develop and lead work environments to become more inclusive, progressive, and flexible.
Our Accelerating Leadership Presence (ALP) is an exclusive 3 day workshop designed to help 10 senior executives lead through the emerging challenges of the modern workplace.
We’ll cover a diverse range of poignant topics, from celebrating diverse teams to building a progressive, innovative and empowered culture through leadership.