Raising the Bar for Trans Hiring Practices

BY Advocate Contributors

April 26 2010 1:55 PM ET

TRANSGENDER EMPLOYMENT X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

Like the gay and lesbian employees of 20 years ago, the trans community is beginning to emerge from its own closet and demand equal opportunity in the workplace, but the heavy lifting of training and education is yet to be done. Contrast with the numbers above: Only 22 of the Fortune 100 and 35 of the Fortune 500 include transgender people in their insurance benefit policies. Most transgender executives find themselves underemployed or unemployed after a transition, even though they bring exactly the same skills and experience (and often a record of overachievement) that would be valuable to any employer.

I met my first out transgender candidate for a corporate position 10 years ago. We had arranged to meet at a coffee shop north of Los Angeles, and I awaited our rendezvous with some trepidation. At precisely 10 a.m. a very tall and stylishly dressed woman arrived for our meeting. Ms. R, as I will call her, would not have passed easily for a woman. She had the broad shoulders and height of an athlete and a resonant voice. Before our meeting I had assumed that she would likely be a confused and unhappy person. But I found that she was confident, at peace with her decision to transition, and eager to go back to work. After an hourlong meeting — which often brought tears to my eyes as she described the struggles with her former employer, her family, and the community in which she had been a youth and civic leader — I had a new respect and admiration for her determination and courage. It was also clear that she was highly qualified for the position and deserved every consideration. I received a very important lesson about transgender people that day.

The Inclusion Network’s participation by a gay-owned search firm committed to equal opportunity for all LGBT people is an important and vital step forward for corporate America and for the executive search profession. Once again the corporate sector has an opportunity to be an agent of social change that, while driven by business considerations, will result in greater social justice. In 2009 the eighth annual Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index showed an unprecedented 305 major U.S. businesses earning the top rating of 100%, up from 260 the previous year — despite the economic downturn.



Now the gold standard for LGBT equality in corporate America, the Equality Index will increasingly reflect the interests and rights of transgender people too. But it is clear that we need to raise the bar even higher in the business world while we continue to fight for equal treatment in employment laws at the federal level, for all the Ms. R’s and also for the generation of LGBT professionals expecting to be judged on their skills and talents, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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