Liza Smyth, senior VP of customer experience at Formstack. Before joining Formstack, Smyth spent 15 years working for some of the world’s most prestigious tech companies, including Apple and LinkedIn. As an advocate for DEIB+ and mental health, she is also a certified suicide prevention counselor.
Modern corporations are expected to make progress and support their employees differently than they have in the past. Still, transgender women are being left out and left behind by corporate America. In fact, transgender adults are twice as likely to be unemployed as cisgender adults, according to a McKinsey Report. The report identifies another bleak reality for transgender adults. Salaries for employed transgender individuals trail behind salaries for cisgender employees by 32% per year.
Although organizations in the US have come a long way in supporting LGBTQ+ employees, we must do better. Fostering a truly inclusive work environment for transgender women will take genuine DEIB commitment from our corporate leaders.
As an executive and a proud mom of three biracial children, I’m no stranger to underrepresented minorities (URMs) and their ever-present challenges. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to advancing true, corporate DEIB, especially for transgender women who still struggle to find support in the modern-day workplace.
Executives, consider these five tips for fostering an inclusive culture for your transgender employees:
Provide gender identity education.
Instead of ignoring people’s differences and letting stigmas simmer, educate your workforce on gender identification differences. Give employees time in their days to do research and critically train people on what discriminatory behavior looks like and the policies that address this behavior. Formstack will launch a full suite of training on a series of topics to promote DEIB in 2023, including extensive training on what it means to be a true ally and how employees can take action.
Create a culture that welcomes transparency.
Foster an authentic leadership style where employees feel comfortable talking about their personal lives and sharing their authentic selves. For example, after a very productive diversity panel at our annual all-hands meeting earlier this year sparked meaningful conversations, our team encouraged others to share their personal stories at the event. We found that opening up the stage for one person to share prompted others to do the same. In fact, after that panel, we opened up new roles on our DEIB council, and we were inundated with applications.
Employers can create an opportunity for employees to share their pronouns (i.e., he, she, they, ze) in their Slack profile or email signature. Some employees will opt to keep their gender identity private, but many will appreciate it.
Implement trans-friendly policies.
Create policies that offer support for employees undergoing gender-confirming procedures and provide transgender women flexibility with bathroom assignments and dress codes. Also, ensure that employees understand where to go if they face mistreatment. Every company should have a clear action plan for trans women employees challenged by inequity related to salary, hiring, promotions or any other form of discrimination.
Create and promote ERGs.
URMs can feel isolated and lonely in corporate environments. To help create community, companies can sponsor voluntary ERGs (employee resource groups) explicitly designated for trans women employees, led by employees. ERGs can give these employees—even those with private gender identities—a psychologically safe space to gather, support one another and help organizations fill their inclusivity gaps. Formstack launched our first-ever ERG this quarter for women called StackHers, and our goal is to launch a number of these throughout 2023 based on the needs of our employee base.
Encourage true allyship.
Even with the best intentions, corporate leaders can’t create true inclusivity without the entire workforce embracing and embodying DEIB values. Enter allyship. Transgender allies can be anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who are passionate about transgender rights and inclusivity. Allies listen to trans women to understand their challenges and follow the news and events affecting their daily lives. Allies are defined by action—they make their presence known by speaking up for trans women’s equality, often taking up uncomfortable conversations and slowly creating a powerful inclusivity movement within the workforce.
Creating a workplace inclusive of trans women employees will lead to rich workforce diversity. While you’ll be living DEIB values—which is undoubtedly the right thing to do—chances are you’ll also be helping your workforce gather a depth of perspectives and life experiences that will boost their productivity, creativity and problem-solving capabilities.