During the past couple of months, Caitlyn Jenner has been the subject of many headlines in the media. Some have referred to Caitlyn as being courageous and brave; others have been angered by the public attention she has received. But in the midst of all this pop culture, important issues have been raised, including how employers can create a welcoming workplace for transgender people.
It is a topic that companies cannot ignore. Most organizations will—and should—focus on complying with federal, state, and local laws. However, organizations must also take steps to ensure a safe environment for everyone who works at the company. Above all, organizations should promote a culture that values all employees for the skills and talents they bring to the company. It is important that no one be made to feel less important, bullied, or belittled.
There are resources available to help your organization address this issue. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a guide to restroom access for transgender workers, for instance, and GLAAD has compiled a reference list of transgender-specific terminology. Here are some additional suggestions for creating an inclusive workplace.
Creating an Inclusive Work Environment
As HR and talent development professionals, we must help our companies build and support this culture of inclusion. Work with employees to help them recognize that transgender individuals are not a threat to them or their belief system. For example, you can:
- create educational materials about transgender issues
- provide an awareness experience that illustrates what it’s like to be different and not accepted in order to create empathy
- hold one-on-one or small group discussions with people to work through concerns.
Additionally, when developing training programs, keep these questions in mind:
- What does teamwork really mean?
- How do we ensure that both transgender and nontransgender people are able to work together in a productive and profitable manner to ensure the success of their organization?
Compliance will be the focus of much of the training. However, compliance alone will not create an ideal workplace. It will take:
- shared norms and expectations
- a strong culture around the way we behave at work and how we collaborate
- transparency and meaningful, respectful conversation.