Transgender Individuals at Work


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Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed annually on November 20. Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who founded the day, encouraged people to remain mindful of transgender individuals who have been lost, and also to continue to fight for justice and equality. 

In this spirit of reflection, researchers at the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University recently analyzed the opportunities and experiences for transgender individuals at work. They noted that progress has been made, but substantial barriers still exist.

The first sign of progress comes in the form of policies and benefits. In 2002, only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies had non-discrimination policies based on gender identity. Today, that figure has risen to 83 percent. Most of these companies now offer transgender-related health benefits, too. In 2002, none of them did. 

There is also evidence that companies seek to align themselves with transgender inclusiveness. When lawmakers in North Carolina passed their “bathroom bill” in 2016, the economic impact of doing so was considerable. An analysis from the Associated Press showed $3.76 billion in lost revenues, state-wide. Lawmakers ultimately reversed course on the bill.

Despite the progress, barriers remain. Research out of the Williams Institute at UCLA shows that transgender individuals are more likely to be unemployed than are their cisgender counterparts. One in seven earn $10,000 or less, per year.

Furthermore, the lack of employment protections at the federal level means that, in many places, transgender individuals can be fired or passed over for promotion because of their gender identity. This is true for 48 percentof all transgender individuals, including those in Texas. 

Finally, the researchers pointed to opportunities. They noted the importance of laws and city ordinances barring discrimination at work. Individual advocates, whether bosses or coworkers, also make a difference. These allies can help promote just workplaces, welcoming for all people.