Jenner’s Journey: 10 Ways to Handle Gender Identity

February 6, 2015 7:42 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming out as transgender offers lessons to corporate America.

The public fascination with Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity is in part because Jenner is a member of the ultrafamous Kardashian clan as well as an Olympic hero who graced Wheaties boxes. But it also showcases how transgender people still have to hide their “true selves” at home and at work.

Education on gender identity—and clear policies on how to help employees and their coworkers during and after transition—creates inclusive workplaces. Companies and employees tell us inclusive and open workplaces have increased engagement, productivity, teamwork and innovation.

For example, Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair – Public Policy for EY (No. 4 in the DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 5 in the Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees) is a lesbian who was in the closet until three years ago. “If you asked me five years ago if I brought my full self to work, I would have said I did but I was dead wrong. EY is getting all of me now and I had no idea before that they weren’t,” she said.

All companies on the DiversityInc Top 50 now include gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies and almost all have health coverage for gender transition.

Transgender Policies
Top 50
Fortune 500
(Source: HRC)
Gender Identity in Nondiscrimination Policy  100%  89%
Transgender Health Benefits  86%  28%
LGBT Employee Resource Group  100%  82%

Here are 10 corporate best practices from the HRC, the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, and members of DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees list:

1. Have clearly communicated policies on what constitutes discrimination and what enforcement procedures are in place. EY has a strong policy that states: “Change often creates anxiety around the unknown and as with all change, gender transitions affect many people—the individual transitioning, supervisors, peers, clients, and even those with incidental affiliation such as working in the same location or practice area.”

The Human Rights Campaign reports that more than half of transgender people in the workplace say they have experienced discrimination. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 71 percent of transgender workers say they have to hide their gender identity at work and 57 percent delay gender transition because of their workplace culture. The Center for American Progress notes that gender-identity discrimination causes increased absenteeism and loss of productivity, which can lead to turnover of valued employees.

2. Allow access to restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities consistent with the person’s gender identity. If other employees express concern over this, have open and educational discussions with them.

3. Never, as Saks Fifth Avenue did, ask an employee to dress in clothing not consistent with his or her gender identity. Individuals in transition are required (by medical staff) to live in their new gender identity before surgery and that means dressing full-time in the new gender role.

4. An employee’s personnel records should be changed to reflect his or her preferred name and gender.

5. Include full transgender health benefits (hormone therapy, surgery, etc.) and communicate clearly to all employees what these benefits cover. For example, AT&T (No. 10 in the Top 50 and No. 1 on the LGBT list) has benefits that include health-insurance-plan coverage for transition-related treatment. Wells Fargo (No. 27 in the Top 50 and No. 2 on the LGBT list) assigns a benefits specialist to help walk people in transition through the process.

6. Have mandatory diversity training that includes gender identity. AT&T includes this in all its new-hire training.

And Prudential was an early leader in corporate policies for transgender employees when Margaret Stumpp, now a Senior Vice President, became a woman in 2002.

“It is easier these days to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual,” said Michele C. Green, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Prudential Financial (No. 8 in the Top 50). “I think our next big hurdle to cross over is the ‘T.’ That is not an easy transition for the person at work who has not been familiar with this or exposed to it.”

7. Have top leaders frequently and visibly express their support for these policies.

8. Use your LGBT employee resource group to educate your employees about what being transgender means and what to say—and not to say—to employees in transition. The main goal, as EY states, is to “reduce the fear of the unknown.”

9. Help transitioning employees create a plan, including when to disclose to coworkers and clients, legal changes (e.g., professional licenses, W-2 forms), time-off needs, and who to go to internally for help and support.

10. Treat each person individually. Every transitioning employee has different needs and concerns. EY notes that individuals in transition often are taking hormone therapy, which can cause mood swings, and that each individual needs a customized support plan with a support team at work.