Trans people often experience significant levels of stigma and discrimination, hostility, and pressure to "manage" their identities in and outside of work. Indeed, a recent large-scale survey of 27,717 trans people from all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas, reported that 77% of respondents who held a job in the year prior took steps to avoid mistreatment at work, such as hiding or quitting their job. Additionally, 67% reported negative job outcomes, such as being fired from or not being hired for a job, and 23% reported other forms of mistreatment, such as being told to present as the wrong gender to retain their jobs. Another study further revealed that 47% of participants reported experiencing at least some discriminatory behavior each day at work, such as being the target of transphobic comments and being socially excluded.
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Because societal gender norms create perhaps the most basic organizing framework by which people categorize themselves and other people, they tend to dramatically shape social relations. Additionally, because they are widely shared and deeply ingrained in the social fabric of society, the status quo related to gender expression is difficult to change. For trans people, breaking with these well-established norms for gender expression is therefore risky, as evidenced in their unusually high rates of reported prejudice and discrimination, verbal harassment, and physical assault in and outside of the workplace.
Only when people feel comfortable being completely authentic can they realize their full potential at work, and trans employees are no exception. However, few companies have succeeded in creating an inclusive work environment for people who do not identify with traditional societal gender norms. In this HBR Idea Cast Podcast, you can learn more about the research my colleagues and I have conducted on the experiences of trans employees over the last seven years and how you and your organization can take proactive steps to create a more inclusive work environment where employees from all gender identifications and expressions feel valued and respected for who they are.
If you are interested in this topic, we would encourage you to check out more of Christian's research on trans-inclusivity:
Read the HBR article that was featured in the April-May 2020 HBR Magazine on this same research topic.
Listen to Christian discuss his research on the Villanova HRD HR Tea Podcast.
Learn more about allyship and oppositional courage in this article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology this year by Christian and colleagues.
Christian Thoroughgood, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about him here!