by Gabrielle Claiborne, CEO
Transformation Journeys Worldwide
“Why do we even need to have this conversation?”
This question was voiced by several cisgender women after I, a transgender woman, shared that I didn’t see my lived experience in a recent survey they had put together to measure women’s issues in the organization.
When I heard their concern, I was shocked! Just six months earlier, I had been invited to join this women’s leadership group in what I thought was an attempt to ensure that the voices of ALL women, regardless of our diverse intersections, were represented at the table. But their inquiry brought up many questions for me: Am I viewed as an outsider? Was I appointed to this group simply so they could check a box? Do they really value my perspectives and contributions?
Unfortunately, this is often the experience of gender diverse women who are lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender nonconforming, queer, etc. (LBTQ+) women. We are often perceived as interlopers with little legitimacy in the sisterhood. Our experiences of womanhood are frequently misunderstood, perceived as different, and often seen as a choice.
But as Rachael Jones explains in her Trans Women are Women article,
- A women-only space cannot be labeled safe if ALL women are not allowed in that space.
- Equal pay for women will not be achieved if some women receive higher wages than their sisters.
- The quality of women’s healthcare will not be enhanced if clinicians are not trained to care for (and respect) ALL women and their bodies.
- Misogyny will not be defeated if any woman is still being misgendered and pronouns are not respected or affirmed.
- Refusing to acknowledge ALL women in the rulebooks of feminism makes it difficult to apply the narratives we work so hard to rewrite.
It is critical that all people be committed to working to end the workplace gender disparities reported by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s 2019 Women in the Workplace Study:
- For every 100 men promoted and hired to a manager position, only 72 women are promoted and hired for the same role.
- This figure is even lower for women of color, with just 68 Latina women and 58 Black women being promoted to manager for every 100 entry-level men who are promoted to the same job.
- Overall, women in corporate America are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders and 62% of women of color say they believe a lack of mentorship holds them back in their career.
- Women are earning 79 cents for every $1 that a man earns.
It is equally critical that people understand the disparities within these disparities. This same Women in the Workplace report also notes:
“Women’s experiences are not universal. These experiences are often shaped by other aspects of their identity. Women of color, lesbian and bisexual women, and women with disabilities are having distinct—and by and large worse—experiences than women overall.”
“Lesbian women, bisexual women, and women with disabilities are far more likely than other women to hear demeaning remarks about themselves or others like them.”
Notice that transgender, intersex, gender nonconforming and queer women experiences are not specifically highlighted in this report. This is yet more evidence that conversations around gender equity still fall short in recognizing the width, breadth and depth of ALL women’s lived experiences. To understand the disparities facing these women, consider the following:
- More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
- According to GLAAD, 90% of trans people report “experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job,” which contributes to the fact that trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed.
- And when it comes to trans people of color, they are four times more likely to be unemployed than a white, cisgender person.
- While cisgender women are earning 79 cents for every $1 that a man earns, the pay equity gap for transgender women and women of color is even wider.
Given these disparities within gender disparities, it will take every single one of us to create a society where all women have the opportunity to thrive, grow and achieve economic independence. So what can you do?
Ways to Create Gender Equity for ALL Women
In 2020, Sandy Mollett, COO of True Diversity, and I shared these suggestions at the Women owned Wednesday event hosted by the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.
Bring other women along with you – Find women who are frequently overlooked and elevate their visibility. When these women’s voices are heard, we all win. An example of what this can look like is when Sandy invited me to co-present with her on expanding the gender equity conversation to include ALL women. This was the first time that many of those in attendance had ever met a trans woman. Sandy’s willingness to “bring me along with her” expanded the conversation and created an awareness of the lived experiences of a diverse demographic of women.
Create equal and equitable policies, business practices and attitudes – We must move beyond diverse hiring practices and commit to gender inclusive practices that include ALL women. Best Practices like ensuring that dress codes are inclusive for ALL women, including gender diverse women. Practices that enable ALL women to see themselves in a company’s website and marketing messages. As a recent Harvard Business Review article citing the benefits of creating trans-inclusive cultures noted, “effective diversity and equity practices have been found to positively impact the productivity of all employees.” They also enable you to become that employer of choice who can attract and retain the best talent in the workforce.
Include ALL women in ERGs/BRGs – Encourage your Women’s Employee or Business Resource Group to co-sponsor events with other E/BRGs to raise awareness of the realities experienced by women of different abilities, women veterans, women of different generations or ethnicities and LBTQ+ women. Modeling radical diversity, equity and inclusion by making space for these voices also builds numbers and momentum for gender equity work. It causes others to sit up, take notice and join in.
Mentor, champion and sponsor diverse women – “You can’t be what you can’t see.” This famous quote from Marian Wright Edelman is as true for little girls contemplating careers in the tech industry as they are for diverse women climbing the corporate ladder. Role models, mentors, champions and sponsors are critical to teaching and bringing opportunity to all women.
Amplify voices and create a seat at the table – Diversify speaker slates. Invite women of various intersections to speak at ERG/BRG events, conferences, retreats and symposiums. Many such women are professional speakers offering talks that elevate all people. For example, my TedX and keynotes empower audience members to show up authentically at work, at home and in their communities and places of worship. Featuring women with intersectional experiences models inclusion and creates spaces for more voices to be heard.
Mitigate biases in hiring processes – Equip your talent acquisition teams with the tools to respectfully navigate conversations with trans and intersex women job applicants. It’s important that candidates see themselves in your job applications, so are you asking for a person’s chosen name? Are you asking applicants for their pronouns? Are you providing a third gender option? It’s important to do that because some intersex women have legal documents with an “X” gender marker designation.
Mitigate biases in performance and growth opportunities – When talking about leadership roles, avoid using gender coded language; that is, assigning particular traits or behaviors exclusively or predominantly to males or females. For example, masculine-coded words in a job posting may be assertive, driven and determined, while feminine-coded words may be compassionate, cooperative, and dependable. The reality is, everyone one of us can have all or some of these traits.
Include women owned small businesses in your supplier diversity initiatives – Large corporations can serve as mentors to women owned small businesses in helping them navigate complex organizations. Encourage your Supplier Diversity colleagues to proactively solicit small women owned businesses for tier 2 engagements.
Having considered numerous suggestions for creating greater gender equity for ALL women, in the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, I choose to challenge you:
What one thing will you do to elevate a woman whose lived experience falls outside of cultural expectations of womanhood?
As you commit to this act of inclusion, know that you are creating workplaces and a sisterhood where ALL women are treated with equity and ALL of our unique intersections are welcomed, valued and celebrated.
To learn how you can bring Sandy Mollett’s and my Expanding the Gender Equity Conversation to Include ALL Women presentation to your organization, CONTACT US.