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Six steps to ensure an all-inclusive workplace

18th October 2021

Authors: Elizabeth Goryunova (University of Southern Maine, USA), Anna K Schwartz (University of Southern Maine, USA), Elizabeth Fisher Turesky (University of Southern Maine, USA) 

In 2015, the members of the United Nations developed and unanimously accepted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a shared blueprint for humanity to build a sustainable and just future ensuring social protection, rights at work, and social dialog1. While nations differ in their priorities and developmental capacity, they agree on  'the recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world' 2. A rejection of an integral part of one’s authentic self as a result of external societal pressure leads to the loss of dignity, in a direct violation of human rights. Yet currently worldwide, one of the most fundamental human attributes: gender identity remains a highly disputed dividing factor, not only due to its socially and culturally embedded significance but also because our comprehension of the gender constellation still evolves.

Most recent perspectives of social and biological-medical science render the traditional binary approach to gender not only transparently unjustified, but particularly harmful when it becomes the criterion for acceptance, legitimacy, or allocation of social and economic resources and opportunities 3. For instance, an all-inclusive and nourishing workplace is extremely important for any employees’ growth, development, and wellbeing. And yet, in the U.S., transgender individuals bear some of the harshest employment discrimination of any population group: mistreatment, microaggression, and even outright assault. This becomes especially worrisome when a growing percentage of Americans, particularly in younger generations identify themselves as transgender, whether binary or non-binary 4. The most recent 2020 Gallup poll on a random sample of 15,349 adults estimates that 0.6% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older (approximately 1.4 M) identify as transgender, and 0.2% as other (e.g., queer, same-gender-loving) 5. Their voices need to be recognised and welcomed, their challenges solved, their aspirations supported, their contributions acknowledged.

The time has come for every star in the constellation to shine in its unique way. In our recent study, we focused on workplace experiences shared by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Their stories offer insights into the following six critical steps to ensure integrative and all-inclusive organisations 6:

  1. Develop an organizational culture of inclusion, respect, safety, and agency for all employees regardless of their sex/gender identity.
  2. Discard stereotypical categories of diversity as criteria for distribution of the organizational resources and development opportunities in favor of individual capacity and contribution regardless of sex/gender identity
  3. Increase understanding, visibility, and acceptance of gender constellation as a whole
  4. Open up gender-centered social networks to individuals outside of those networks to build positive shared experiences
  5. Proactively build gender constellation environments along with the capacity to holistically address complex issues related to gender identity and expression in the workplace.
  6. Elevate and embrace equality and inclusion at the national level through comprehensive legislative acts (such as the U.S. Equality Act)

From: Elizabeth Goryunova, Anna K Schwartz, Elizabeth Fisher Turesky

  1. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  2. The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  3. Köllen, T. (2016), Sexual orientation and transgender issues in organizations: Global perspectives on LGBT workplace diversity. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.
  4. Wilson, B. D. M. & Meyer, I. H. (2021), “Nonbinary LGBTQ Adults in the United States”. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute
  5. Jones, J. (2021, February 24), “LGBT Identification Rises to 5.6% in Latest U.S.  Estimate”, GALLUP
  6. Goryunova, E., Swartz, A., & Turesky, E. (2021). Exploring Workplace Experiences of Transgender Individuals in the U.S, Gender & Management, an International Journal

Journal article: Exploring workplace experiences of transgender individuals in the USA

Journal title: Gender in Management