AN INTERVIEW WITH STAN C. KIMER
In recent years, we’ve seen many headlines regarding transgender issues across the country. Affinity Inc Magazine sat down with Stan Kimer to gain his insights on how a company can demonstrate positive steps toward transgender inclusion. Stan Kimer is an experienced diversity and inclusion consultant with a deep expertise in LGBT diversity. He has assisted several clients with transgender employee policy development and successful case management of gender transitioning employees. He can be reached at Stan@TotalEngagementConsulting.com or 919-787-7315.
IT SEEMS THAT MANY ORGANIZATIONS ARE NOW MUCH MORE INTERESTED AND PROACTIVE IN SUPPORTING TRANSGENDER EMPLOYEES. WHY IS THIS?
As it becomes increasingly harder to find the best talent for each position within an organization, and as good people seem to leave as quickly as they get hired, it is critical that companies recruit from the widest possible talent pool and work hard to keep that top talent. And now as more transgender people are coming out and sometimes going through gender transition in the workplace, companies must have the right policies and practices in place to recruit and keep their transgender employees.
WHAT IS THE BUSINESS RATIONALE FOR FULLY SUPPORTING TRANSGENDER EMPLOYEES?
First, companies need to recruit and retain the very best talent. There are now more transgender people out and proud of their identity in the talent pool. There is a very high cost of recruiting and replacing any employee, including transgender people, who do not feel supported or validated in their workplace and leave. And these are tough people who know how to face challenges.
Second, the LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) community fully includes transgender people as part of our community, so “excluding them is excluding us.” And the younger generation is not as hung up on gender roles and definition and often consider transgender policy as a corporate “litmus test” of true inclusion.
Third, there is an increased sales opportunity among the LGBT constituency of over $800B per year in the US. LGBT consumers are among the most brand-loyal and brand punishing, and this business will be lost by not treating transgender people with respect.
And finally, it’s simply the human thing to do – all people deserve to be valued and respected.
I HAVE HEARD THAT YOU OFTEN SHARE SEVEN STEPS THAT COMPANIES NEED TO TAKE TO SUPPORT TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE. WHERE DOES ONE START?
1. Adding “Gender Identity and Expression” into corporate non-discrimination policy. This is the most fundamental core item to start the process. And after that, six additional steps must be taken to assure that the updated policy is much more than words on paper.
SO WHAT WOULD BE THE NEXT SEVERAL STEPS AFTER PUBLISHING A WRITTEN NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY?
2. Providing appropriate medical benefits for transitioning employees. And this means the full package of transitioning steps, not just a few major surgeries. The transition process when done fully includes counseling, life coaching, hormone replacement therapy and various types of surgeries. Some of these benefits can be provided via health insurance and others through EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs.)
3. Including transgender information in diversity training. As a matter of routine, all employees from the ground floor up to the C-Suite should be receiving diversity and inclusion training and it should include materials about transgender people. And not just one word on one chart, but more detailed information to familiarize everyone with this latest “new hot topic” in the diversity sphere.
4. Handling / changing of employee records. Part of the employee transition plan should be issuing a new employee badge with the latest photo as well as changing e-mail address if the e-mail typically includes the employee’s name.
5. Supporting community organizations that promote transgender equality and respect. Since most organizations have community outreach budgets that include supporting various diversity constituencies in the community, do assure yours includes some transgender support organizations or at least LGBT groups that have robust transgender outreach and support programs.
WE’VE COVERED FIVE SO FAR, BUT I HAVE OFTEN HEARD THE RESTROOM DISCUSSION IS OFTEN THE MOST DIFFICULT.
Yes, that is number six.
6. Establishing appropriate restroom configuration and policy. Gender-neutral restrooms are an excellent choice to demonstrate inclusion and are growing in popularity. In a configuration of just men’s and ladies’ room, it is appropriate for a person to use the restroom of their presenting gender. You may also have additional single stall neutral restrooms that you can offer as a choice for transgender people, but according to OSHA guidance, you cannot compel a person to use a single stall restroom; this sends the totally wrong message and invalidates the transgender person as not being fully male or female. Instead provide the single bathroom to those who may have issues with a transgender employee using the men’s and ladies’ rooms.
AND SO WHAT IS THE FINAL STEP OR PRACTICE THAT COMPANIES NEED TO CONSIDER?
The seventh moves beyond corporate policy to how you handle individual gender transitions within your organization.
7. Training HR practitioners or hiring a consultant to assist with transitioning employees case management. When a transgender employee comes forward to HR or management to share they are undergoing gender transition it is best to develop a positive and proactive plan with the employee. The plan should include the optimal way of communicating the upcoming transition to co-workers, working closely with manager so they understand the business rationale for fully supporting their employee, and providing excellent training for those who will work closely with the employee.
ARE THERE ANY FINAL THOUGHTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
Do prepare for the possible isolated for issues, though most often with some thoughtful planning, employee gender transitions will go smoothly with everyone winning.