June 14th marked a turning point for transgender inclusion in Atlanta – a turning point that has significant implications for all organizations. For the last four years you may have heard Transformation Journeys Worldwide (TJWW) talking about transgender and non-binary inclusion. Even so, diversity and inclusion spaces, and even LGBTQ spaces, rarely addressed this rapidly growing demographic.
But all that has changed – if the recent Georgia Diversity Council’s LGBT-Allies Diversity Summit is any indication. SunTrust, UPS, FIS Global, Accenture, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (AGLCC) spoke out, loudly and clearly, about what they are doing to attract and retain the 12% of millennials who identify as transgender or non-binary.
In his opening remarks, Jorge Manjarres, the ally co-lead of SunTrust’s LGBTQ ERG, revealed the importance of getting educated about this demographic when he referenced what he had learned about gender identity, gender expression and the importance of pronouns from our presentation at last year’s Summit. Jorge shared about a colleague who had sought him out when having to fill out a conference registration form that asked for his pronouns. Because of what he had learned, Jorge was equipped to explain to his colleague why conference planners would be inquiring about pronouns – and why it matters.
Petrina Bloodworth, President of the AGLCC, gave the keynote address. Petrina reinforced the importance of education regarding trans and non-binary people – even for LGBTQ organizations – by mentioning all she had learned from TJWW’s recent training for the AGLCC’s Board and staff.
A powerful panel of leaders from various D&I spaces included Clay Noe, co-lead of UPS’s LGBT & Allies BRG. Clay addressed the impact that an LGBTQ BRG can have on its organization. As his example, he talked about the TJWW Trans and Non-binary Workplace Inclusion training his BRG had hosted at UPS headquarters this past year. Clay said his BRG had been very strategic about getting key leaders to that training. After the training, some of these leaders confessed they had not known anything about this demographic. Now, however, with their BRG’s consistent support, they are taking further steps to create a more equitable and inclusive space for UPS’ trans and non-binary employees.
Another panelist, Jennifer Frasier, Global Director of I&D for FIS Global, spoke about various policies that have to be addressed in order to be inclusive of trans and non-binary people. She shared the challenges she recently had getting a non-binary employee signed up for health benefits with a provider that offered only “male” and “female” options on their forms. As a result, she took on deeper advocacy work with healthcare providers to expand their inclusion practices. Jennifer underscored the importance of having HR team members effectively trained to work with trans and non-binary employees and job applicants. HR carries much of the responsibility for creating and implementing the policies, benefits and recruiting and retention strategies that impact trans and non-binary people. Beyond HR, Jennifer recognized that it was also vital that she work with FIS’ marketing department, ensuring they use inclusive images, as well as her local corporate social responsibility committees and teams, to confirm community engagement initiatives include trans and non-binary people.
Echoing Jennifer and Clay’s insights, panelist Malik Brown, LGBT Affairs Coordinator for the City of Atlanta, noted the importance of including the concerns of all of Atlanta’s LGBTQ residents in their initiatives. To this end, the Mayor’s LGBTQ Mayoral Advisory Board has created a Trans Inclusion Task Force to address the specific needs of this community.
During Q&A, Cortland Russell, former Global Program Manager for Pride at Accenture, added to what the FIS panelist had been saying about the need for trans and non-binary inclusive policies. Cortland shared that, some time ago, Accenture had created policies that included transgender people. With an ongoing commitment to inclusion, Accenture has been updating those policies to make sure they are also inclusive of non-binary trans people.
The conversation raised awareness with the audience members, one of whom stood up and acknowledged, “I am a cisgender, straight, white male, and I know I have a bucket of privilege.” The fact that this SunTrust employee was educated enough to know that his privilege had to do, not only with his race, sex and sexual orientation, but also with his gender identity (cisgender) was eye-opening and gave a clear signal that the conversation has begun in earnest.
The cultural blindness that has excluded transgender and non-binary individuals is lifting. The conversation in Atlanta is not happening in isolation. Companies and corporations have recognized the significance of the 2017 Harris Poll that revealed that 12% of millennials identify as transgender or non-binary. Now these forward-thinking organizations are taking concrete steps to position themselves to be employers of choice for all these people… to be winners in the current talent war.
The trans inclusion ship has set sail, and organizations like yours are making tremendous headway. Are you on board?