Nearly half of transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment in their workplace and transitioning at work was one of the most significant triggers of this. In order to attract and retain the best talent in today’s complex and diverse labour market, employers must consider the needs and wants of those who identify as transgender or outside the gender binary. Creating truly inclusive workplaces, in which all employees can thrive, is crucial to business success. In the past few years, PwC has seen a rise in enquiries from prospective employees around transgender policies. Anne Hurst, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at PwC sees progressive interventions for transgender applicants and employees as an important D & I development.
In particular, prospective employees want to know if it is possible to apply in their current gender and later join the firm as their affirmed gender.
This is not surprising given the increasing number of young people being referred to support services for help with transgender issues. Generation Y has been called the gender fluid generation: they do not identify with one gender, but instead fluctuate between feeling more male or female. But are employers as likely as millennials to recognise that gender identity is a broad spectrum, and to consider the needs of employees who identify as transgender or outside the gender binary?
PwC certainly is. Since a handful of employees have transitioned while at the firm, along with increased media attention on trans issues, Anne Hurst, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, saw this as an imperative for the firm: “As a progressive employer we wanted to make sure that we were staying ahead and keeping up with social change.”
Internal guidelines for employees, colleagues and managers
With the help and feedback of trans men and women who had transitioned whilst working at PwC, she produced a guide to transitioning at work, which is available to all employees through their internal social media site.
The guide explains what gender identity is, and how it differs from biological gender and sexual orientation, raising awareness of concepts that are often misunderstood.
It provides practical advice to transgender people about the disclosure process at work, e.g. how to plan their communication to their manager, colleagues and clients about their transition, and planning for practicalities such as how to change their name on the firm’s systems, on their security badge etc. PwC already offers the option for staff to select ‘X’ as a gender and ‘MX’ as a preferred title in its HR system. Finally, the guide is designed to support line managers who are responsible for their staff’s wellbeing. According to Anne, “[Their] support is integral to a successful transition at work.”
The document is very much workplace-oriented but also includes a list of external organisations such as Gires and Gendered Intelligence, which provide assistance and support to trans and gender nonconforming individuals.
Transgender surgery as healthcare benefit
In addition to this internal guidance, PwC is one of the very few employers in the UK which will offer transgender surgery as a healthcare benefit for UK employees from October 2016. For those seeking medical support, it will provide quicker access to surgery.
For Anne, this policy sends a strong message to current and future employees – however they identify – and demonstrates that PwC is a truly inclusive organisation: “It’s a sign that when we talk about inclusion, we mean for everybody.”
These new policies strengthen the existing support initiatives in the firm. For example, trans employees are invited to join GLEE@PwC, the LGBT business network. The network ensures a specific focus for transgender colleagues: last year they hosted a very well-attended event for clients and staff called ‘Talking Trans’, to raise awareness of gender transition.