The Battle Against Bias

How to create an inclusive, psychologically safe workplace

By Tara Buchan and Dani Carbary February 7, 2024

Tara Buchan and Dani Carbary

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Creating inclusive spaces for folks with expanded gender identities can have a profound impact on both mental and physical health, and the workplace should be no exception. Employers have the unique opportunity to create a sense of belonging for individuals who might not feel inclusion in other areas of their lives.

How do you create an inclusive workplace for transgender and gender-diverse employees?

While many routine best practices for creating a culture of belonging apply, employers must consider additional practices to ensure trans employees feel inclusion. Unsurprisingly, research consistently shows that medical health benefits, which include gender affirming care (e.g., medical, surgical, mental health, and other services) lead to higher rates of satisfaction and increased job productivity.

The benefits of this offering cannot be overstated. Language is one of an organization’s most powerful tools for creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and included. Learn and share with all employees proper pronoun usage so misgendering is avoided. Create or distribute a glossary of terms so your employees can learn definitions and acronyms they may hear when gender identity is discussed.

Include LGBTQ+ identities in your DEIB programming. Events and intentional conversations allow employees to witness your organization’s commitment to supporting all identities. Provide clearly stated company policies that apply to all identities (restroom access, pronoun usage, dress codes, etc.).

What are some ways that our cisgender employees can show allyship?

Consider creating a formal program, like Bank of America’s Ally Program, which encourages non-LGBTQ+ employees to unite in their support of the LGBTQ+ community, and features cards that can be displayed in the workplace for folks to denote their allyship.

“If an inclusive environment is created and allies make themselves known, team members will feel supported,” says Edgar Muñoz, vice president, relationship manager for Bank of America. “Our Ally Program and the Ally cards allow folks to literally see those coworkers who are there to support them. This can help employees to exist as they truly are.”

How can we infuse LGBTQ+ gender identities into our recruitment practices?

If you want to ensure that external prospective talent sees your commitment to inclusivity, be vocal and transparent on your website and social media about (?) working and thriving at your organization. Highlight the gender affirming health benefits available to employees, resource groups offered, and employee support options. Ensure that hiring managers are well equipped with the education and resources specific to creating a bias free hiring process.

What are some ways we can combat workplace biases as an employer?

“It’s important to realize that we’ve been socialized to put people in boxes or categories, but checking a box to denote someone’s identity cannot fully explain who they really are,” says Leslie Cherry, Bank of America vice president and market leader. “We must expand our thinking to realize that personal identity is a spectrum.”

Unconscious bias training that intentionally includes education on LGBTQ+ identities for all staff can help expand your employees’ preconceived notions of gender, discourage misgendering, cease misuse of pronouns, and encourage a workplace where all feel valued and respected. Create and invest in employee resource groups and external communities that provide support to the LGBTQ+ community. Finally (and not unsimilar to all DEI efforts), leadership plays a vital role. It signals a deliberate message and elevates inclusion practices.

“While we shouldn’t be conditioned to think your job is your family, a workplace can be ‘home’ for folks who may not have support in other areas of their lives,” says Falefi a Jr. Brandon Fuamatu, development manager at UTOPIA Washington, a Kent-based nonprofit that works on equity issues for the LGBTQIA+ community. “It is definitely possible, with the help of great leadership, to create a workplace where folks feel like they can be their true selves and can grow as human beings.”

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