Why Transgender Inclusion Is Good for Business
BY Vanessa Sheridan
November 19 2013 5:00 AM ET
The Tools for Success
Naomi Ceder is living proof of how an inclusive workplace can pay dividends. An accomplished information technology professional, Ceder is also a trans woman who successfully transitioned on the job, beginning in late 2012. Her experience could be a textbook example of why growing numbers of companies choose to be supportive of their transgender employees.
Zoro Tools, an industrial supply company located in a suburb of Chicago, hired Ceder — who, at the time, identified as a man and used a male name — to be its information technology director. Ceder quickly became respected throughout the organization as a valued, skilled, highly knowledgeable professional.
But Zoro Tools executives had no idea that Ceder had long struggled with issues surrounding gender identity. After much deliberation and preparation, Ceder made the courageous decision to come out as Naomi and begin her transition. Still operating at work in male mode, Ceder came out to the organization’s vice president, who in conjunction with the organization’s president and HR director elected to be supportive of their employee living and working as a woman.
The supportive reaction from Zoro Tools served as just one real-life example of Diego Sanchez’s argument that "most employers wouldn't knowingly create a hostile work environment for the employees in whom they have invested time and training." Sanchez is the director of policy for PFLAG International, and he happens to be a trans man who was a former senior policy adviser to Congressman Barney Frank.
Just as Sanchez predicted, Zoro Tools did not want to lose a valuable team member in Ceder. The company was also compelled to comply with Illinois state law, which specifically protects the rights of transgender workers.
To make sure the process went smoothly — and legally — the company brought in an outside consultant to provide input on the transition plan and to present transgender awareness training sessions for managers and their teams. That consultant happened to be the author of this article, who can personally attest that Zoro’s strategy worked. After two days of training, the staff found itself fully introduced to the transgender phenomenon, the business case for transgender inclusion, and a special emphasis on Ceder’s situation.
Because of this due diligence and attention to detail, Ceder’s transition on the job has gone extremely well. Her coworkers have been respectful and accepting, and Zoro Tools was able to retain the services of a valuable, talented, and experienced IT director. The expense of working with this outside consultant was less than the considerable costs of having to locate, recruit, and hire a new employee to fill the position in which Ceder was already excelling.
What’s more, Ceder is now able to bring her authentic self to work every day, resulting in a happier, healthier, and more productive employee for Zoro Tools, as it’s been proven that authentic individuals are higher-performing employees. Being able to bring one’s authentic self to work every day can do things like that.
VANESSA SHERIDAN is a leading provider of professional transgender business services, including consulting and training, for major corporations. Sheridan is the author of the groundbreaking book The Complete Guide to Transgender in the Workplace and is an accomplished, in-demand speaker. Find out more about her at VanessaSheridan.com.