Does gender really matter at work place??

Let me tell you first of all how I started writing this post. Today I came across this post on gender identity discrimination on Huffpost Gay Voices about the story of a transgender woman, Jessie Dye, who was thrown out her job on the very first day when the manager got to know her gender. She was born a male and was on a transition to a female and the question the manager asked her was “What are you”!!Whoa.. I would like to ask back here,” How does it matter to you?” This is just not to counter or to be rude. I really would like to hear the logical explanations from that manager on how her gender would affect him or his workplace.

Gender disparity at work place is not at all a new topic .We all would have seen those statistics set out by ILO and other national and international agencies periodically and just forgotten them conveniently. We know that women are always paid less than men and less employed and promoted than their male counterparts. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey , 2014 showed that 26% of transgender people lost a job due to bias and 50% were harassed on the job. In the case of women, there are numerous laws prohibiting discrimination against women at workplace, against pregnant and nursing women, against older women and what not. Their effectiveness is a different story altogether which we may have to discuss some other time. But in the case of transgender people, there is no federal law currently in place and out of the 50 states in United States only 17 have a law that prohibits discrimination against them, which means in the rest of 33 states you can get fired for being a transgender!!Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that addresses sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination has still not become an ACT as it is yet to be passed by the US House of representatives.

From a HR stand point, my question is how does being a transgender affect a person’s effectiveness at work? How does it affect the morale of the work place? Shouldn’t they be part of the diversity programs and inclusive employment drives? By considering them for eligible positions, aren’t we reaching the untapped human capital? In case of Jessie Dye, she was asked to leave even before she started to work, for the manager to determine whether she was good or not. She might have been selected after all those rigorous processes of recruitment. Is there no value for merit? The people who are supporters of discrimination against women at work place(explicitly or implicitly) may have many  arguments like women have different priorities in life, have multiple roles to handle at home and work ,they don’t have the focus and time to get higher in ladder etc etc. I really wonder what would be those arguments against the transgender people. Or is it just the mere notion that they are the transgenders and not fit for work?

The problems faced by the transgender community is not just limited to getting a job or being discriminated against when it comes to employment decisions. They do face many other problems like facing the confused coworkers who would not know which pronoun to use for them (he/she), there would be many small talks about them going on in the office, one of the biggest concerns is when the transition happens when you are employed and the reactions of coworkers after that. These are just a few of the many others. Surely, there has been a positive change in the mindset of the corporate world in the past decade with nearly 89% of the Fortune 500 companies having policies on employment protection on the basis of gender identity. Many companies have started expanding their diversity programs with a focus on the LGBT community. Accenture is a very good example where they have very strict policies against any sort of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and they have implemented a Transgender Transition Guidelines to help those transgender people and their colleagues handle the transition phase. Similarly, in FBI, they have a LGBT program to ensure equal employment opportunity, promote effective and equitable participation, and enhance career development opportunities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees of the FBI.

While all these are welcoming changes, what actually needs to be changed radically is the way we look at gender at workplace. As long work is getting done in the proper manner, why should the gender of the person who does it matter, be it female, male or transgender. Focus should be more on the outcome and the activity, rather than the person behind it. Why should gender affect anyone’s rights, opportunities and success?

(Does your organization have any diversity program with special focus on LGBT or any other specific group? Please share it here so that we can enrich our discussions)



The Ardent HR


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