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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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3 Gender reassignment

Juster (2021) points out that gender reassignment terminology is ‘rapidly changing, and although general definitions exist, some people may object to using those terms to describe themselves.’

A graphic of two halves: left-hand side has a sign going left, labelled past. The right-hand side has a sign pointing right, labelled future.

For example, the discrimination legislation refers to individuals as being ‘transsexual’ which, for many, is now an outdated term. A more commonly used word today is ‘transgender’, but that is not without its objectors either. Others prefer to use the word ‘trans’.

Juster also refers to the judicial Equal Treatment Bench Book (2021), which aims to increase awareness and understanding of the different circumstances of people appearing in court. In Chapter 12 (p329), it explains:

Sometimes people who identify with a gender which is different from that which they were assigned at birth refer to themselves, (in addition to being, say, ‘a man’ or ‘a woman’), as also being a ‘trans’, ‘transgender’ or ‘transgendered’ person. Some people object to some or all of those terms. When these terms are used, it is as a broad umbrella to describe a wide variety of people who cross the conventional boundaries of gender. It may be terminology that people will use only in certain circumstances or in certain company.

Exploring discrimination

Consider these examples of discrimination (adapted from ACAS, 2019):

Table 2: Examples of discrimination (adapted from ACAS, 2019)
Direct discrimination Rianne, transitioning from man to woman, wants to continue in her job. However, her boss says that until Rianne’s transition is complete, she needs to temporarily move to a role that has less contact with clients.
Indirect discrimination Francine is arranging a business trip abroad. Her manager requires all employees travelling abroad to take their birth certificate as additional proof of identity. They must also leave copies with the manager. Francine has not told her employer she transitioned. She didn’t want to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, so does not have a new birth certificate as Francine. To show her original birth certificate would ‘out’ her.
Harrassment Sarah has transitioned to live permanently as a woman. All colleagues are supportive apart from two, who don’t agree with gender reassignment. When they think no-one else can hear, they refer to Sarah using ‘he’, ‘him’, or ‘his’ to upset her. This is despite, with Sarah’s approval, colleagues being told what language is acceptable/ unacceptable.
Victimisation Fourteen months ago Greg gave evidence against a manager disciplined for speaking abusively to an employee about their gender reassignment. Now, Greg is applying for an internal promotion. His application is turned down by the manager who was disciplined, saying that Greg’s performance in his current role needs to improve before he can be considered again. Greg has had no previous complaints about his work.

Enhancing your awareness

Research conducted by Totaljobs (2021) surveyed over 400 trans (their chosen terminology) employees on their experiences in the workplace, covering a range of topics from discrimination to HR support. Some of the key findings include:

  • In 2016, 52% of trans people reported that they didn’t reveal their gender identity at work, in 2021 the number has risen to 65%.
  • 56% of trans people believe it’s harder for them to find a job.
  • 53% think they experience more barriers to progress to senior positions than non-trans people.
  • 33% have experienced discrimination in job interviews and applications.
  • When asked what they look for when considering a new role, 33% want to know if a company has trans-specific policies in place.
  • In 2016, 38% of trans workers said they’d experienced discrimination from their colleagues, in 2021 that’s down to 25%.
  • In 2021, 43% of trans employees specifically said they’ve left a job because the environment was unwelcoming, up from 36% in 2016.

The report goes on to highlight two actions that should be avoided:

Deadnaming – calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name, usually as a part of gender transition.

Misgendering – misuse of pronouns, i.e. using a form of address which does not reflect their gender identity.

Some of the key findings noted here indicate a worsening rather than improving picture. Throughout the report, partners and national transgender charity Sparkle offer advice to employers, including the following:

  • Don’t assume – no two trans people will have an identical journey so treat everyone uniquely and without bias.
  • Communicate your values – publish a positive statement on equality, diversity and inclusion on your website.
  • De-gender the language – in the recruitment process and internal documents. For example, swap ‘he’ and ‘she’ for neutral pronouns.
  • Train your staff – run courses and training on gender diversity and inclusion, use a top-down, bottom-up approach to ensure everyone is involved.
  • Start a conversation – invite a trans organisation to deliver a talk.

In the next section, you’ll briefly consider sexual orientation in the workplace.