The law firm Baker McKenzie recently hosted a Pride Month panel discussion titled "Workplace Inclusivity for our Trans/Non-Binary Community." As a part of the event, transgender and non-binary participants from the LGBTQ community shared their workplace experiences as well as best practices on allyship.
Leading discussion among three panelists, Baker McKenzie moderators included Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion, North America Marredia Crawford (she/her); associate and co-chair of North America BakerPride Brandon King (he/him); and Director of Economics and North America BakerPride Co-Chair Andrew O'Brien-Penney (he/him).
Kicking off the discussion, panelist Jaimie Hileman (she/her) touched on the current state of transgender rights nationwide both in and out of the workplace. Hileman is a trans/LGBTQIA+ cultural competency educator and executive director at Trans Education Service.
"It's really difficult to have a successful career in the workplace and to grow and move forward if you don't have a safe place to go to the bathroom, or are barred from other gender-segregated areas such as changing rooms, depending on the workplace," she stated.
Focusing specifically on employment challenges, she later added, "Where does every employment opportunity start? With an interview, and if you get past that, then a sit-down to look at paperwork: everything from the I-9 to the W-4. But half of all trans Americans do not have one piece of picture ID that matches their appearance with their gender and gender expression."
Panelist Elliott Hinkle (they/them), principal and founder at Unicorn Solutions, concurred. "There is a document burden for me to prove who I am and to still be recognized for who I actually am versus what paperwork says I have to be," they said, discussing the challenges non-binary people face when forced to choose a gender for government documentation such as passports.
"But the burden that leaves me with is, in a workplacein any other place where I have to show documentation to prove who I am - it's only partially correct," they added.
As the panel turned toward workplace best practices, Hinkle offered employers some advice. "You could brand your entire organization, cover it in rainbows, you could have an office workplace that has all the right images, but if my experience in your office is not one that is positive, affirming, comfortable, then none of that matters."
Panelist Caitlin May (she/they), a director of HR compliance at Salesforce, focused on pronouns in their response to what employers can do to be better allies to transgender employees. "In terms of my recommendations for best practices, a big one is don't assume someone's gender," they said, adding, "There's great alternatives. I'm not from the South, but I love 'y'all' or 'you all' or 'folks' instead of 'guys' or 'gals.' My boss loves 'guys, gals, and non-binary pals' which always makes me giggle a little bit."
The panel concluded after addressing audience questions, including resources they can access to learn more on how to be better allies to the transgender community.