Highly innovative companies know that they are only as successful as their individual employees. In unwelcoming environments, employee engagement suffers by up to 30%, creating long-term problems for retention and productivity.
For transgender employees, this lost sense of workplace value happens more often than not. In fact, one recent study found that more than 50% of transgender employees say ‘they are not comfortable being out at work’, and two-thirds ‘remain in the closet in professional interactions outside their own companies’. Plus, the study discovered that transgender people are twice as likely to be unemployed, and that cisgender employees earn 32% more money a year than their transgender coworkers with equal education levels.
Despite advances in DE&I in the workforce today, in nearly 20 states there are still no explicit statewide laws that protect people seeking employment from discrimination or in the workplace on the basis of gender identity, making transgender employees a particularly vulnerable group.
This hostility has an outsized impact – the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 40% of all transgender adults have said that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to less than 5% of the overall US population. And thus far in 2023 alone, 11 transgender and gender non-confirming people have been killed in hate crimes across the United States.
With access to equal employment and a discrimination-free workplace a prevalent issue facing the transgender community, companies who are vocal in their support and advocacy for the transgender community are more important than ever. Read about 20 companies who have histories of paving pathways for equality and are committed to providing workplace inclusion, federally-protected safety, and access to encompassing healthcare.
The household name, Amazon, has been taking steps to ensure transgender employees feel welcome and respected in the workplace since the early 2010s. The company takes a comprehensive approach, including equal insurance coverage, the ‘Glamazon’ network of employees dedicated to inclusive rights, and a digital resource hub. Amazon also announced in May of 2022 that they will offer $4,000 per year to US employees who need to travel to different states for medical procedures, including transgender care.
American Airlines has implemented policies to support transgender employees and customers for many years. Recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with the highest possible rating in the prestigious 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), American Airlines has received a top score for the last 20 years. They’ve also been named in the “Best Places to Work” list in the United States. In 2021 and 2022, the brand focused on the full adoption of inclusive nondiscrimination policies to equitable healthcare benefits for transgender employees. For customers, you can now choose from a list of gender-inclusive titles when booking a flight. American Airlines has also made a commitment to provide yearly diversity and inclusion training for all employees.
For 34 years, AT&T has pioneered the conversation of workplace protection, authentic employee representation, and LGBTQIA+ advocacy. They are a company of historic firsts in the field, including being one of the first U.S. corporations to explicitly protect their LGBTQIA+ employees from workplace discrimination (1975) and to adopt definitive healthcare benefits for transgender employees (2006). AT&T’s advocacy doesn’t stop at the company walls, though; in 2018, they donated $1 Million to The Trevor Project, the organization’s single largest contribution in history. They continue to be a part of the conversation by fueling TrevorTalk and TrevorChat, the LGBTQIA+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention mobile services, with over $675,000 worth of their products and services. AT&T thinks beyond policy and paper, and cultivates safer spaces both inside their company and within their communities.
Since 2008, when they released an ad featuring a lesbian couple, Campbell has been featured as “Best Place to work for LGBT equality”. Campbell introduced a subtle and powerful way to recognize a need for social change early on, and, more importantly, when they received retaliation, they didn’t back down from their decision. Campbell supports their transgender community extensively through end-to-end policies and benefits including Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment, and Retaliation Prevention policies, as well as fully inclusive healthcare coverage and benefits.
Chevron Gas & Mobile has taken a stand for the comfort of their transgender employees since 2005, in an exceptional way: education. They were globally known as “Employee Resource Group of the Year” because of their release of an educational pamphlet outlining employee transition guidelines, complete with gender terminology, differentiating sexual orientation, and creating a workplace engagement plan. Their peer-to-peer based company training culture effectively reduces stress for transitioning employees by placing social conduct responsibility on everyone, such as including management support in creating healthy conversations about the transition process. In fact, Chevron’s attained over 7 awards applauding them for the diverse workplace, including Forbes’ Best Employers for Diversity, Women, and New Grads in 2019 alone.
Google has implemented a series of policies to support transgender employees, including offering gender-neutral restrooms and providing resources for transitioning employees. They’ve also significantly increased their benefits spend, which now cover transitioning procedures and treatment in accordance with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care. Externally, in the last years Google.org has committed $4M in cash and Ad Grants (as well as tools, training, and volunteer opportunities) to LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and allows businesses to add an “LGBTQ friendly” “Transgender safespace” and “Gender-neutral restroom” attribute to their business profile on Google.
When HP was recognized in the U.S. for having the most diverse board of directors in 2017—at the time, 23% were underrepresented minorities—they sent out a mission statement to become “The Most Diverse Tech Company”, focusing on the ingrained hiring process biases within the tech industry. Since then, they’ve been continually advocating for diversity being their #1 drive in innovation, adaptability, and growth, and their transgender employees are no exception. From their first policy inclusion in 2003 to the expansion of their ERG to include the Out & Equal Workplace summit, HP has had a consistent 100% HRC rating recognizing policies, practices, and benefits working cohesively to accept, include, and propel transgender employees.
HSBC, a leader in banking and financial services, has been focused on transgender inclusion, and in December 2022 announced that it will pay for its trans employees’ gender-affirming care. The company is offering a “gender dysphoria benefit” that supports trans and non-binary employees to express their true identity. It covers the cost of gender-affirming surgeries and treatments for employees and their dependents who apply for the program. HSBC also launched a global diversity and inclusion program that focuses on improving workplace culture for LGBTQ+ employees.
H&M has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and has taken steps to support transgender rights, including gender-neutral clothing lines and featuring transgender models in their advertising campaigns. They have launched The Trevor Project which is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. H&M works regularly to advance the policies and practices related to LGBTQ rights, including providing a safe and inclusive environment for transgender employees.
With eLearning frameworks specific to the Gender Discussion—such as their Workplace Transition Framework, THINKpolicy and #ProudIBMers—IBM holds their employees accountable to creating an inclusive workplace. In 2001, they took employee-driven accountability a step further and implemented the LGBT+ Global Diversity Business Development organization to develop the continued understanding, education, and long-term policy strategy for the fast-growing company. Since the team of strategic advisors has been deployed, IBM has positioned themselves as a thought leader in workplace inclusion, best practices, and extended employee learning. Their vast amount of resources includes the Gender Transition in the Global Workplace study, a case study explaining the depth of which the IBM goes to create sustainable practices, policies, and pipelines for transitioning and fellow employees to follow. The protocol leaves the pace of the workplace transition entirely to the transitioning employee’s preference, allowing their managers and coworkers to listen, learn, and further their understanding of the importance of transgender acceptance in the workplace.
Levi’s has been a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and has taken steps to support transgender rights, including offering gender-neutral product lines that continue to expand today. Levi’s has also collaborated with LGBTQ+ organizations and individuals to create their Pride collection, which includes rainbow-themed clothing and accessories. By taking these steps to support transgender rights, Levi’s has shown their commitment to creating a more inclusive and accepting world.
In 2018, Lush, in response to the high political tension stemming from ‘bathroom bills’ and military bans, transformed their North American stores into public advocacy campaigns, including signage, brochures, “BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER” T-shirts, and a bath melt named “Inner Truth”. Lush promptly donated 100% of sales of “Inner Truth” to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, furthering their research to abolish the administrative breakdown of transgender safety rights, access to healthcare, and military enlistment. They followed-up their retail overhaul with a series of videos outlining the real lives of transgender people, which later became internal resources now available on their website.
Transitioning is a social, legal, and political process that effects every touchpoint of a transitioning employee’s life. When laying out their variety of internal benefits, policies, and outreach initiatives, Lyft realized this. In late 2018, they initiated the Round Up and Donate program, which voluntarily rounded-up ride funds and funneled the difference directly to HRC and their gender equality initiatives. Lyft continues to donate to transgender non-profit organizations, provide financial assistance for the identification changes for transitioning drivers, and release incredibly produced content, such as their Pride Zine Two is Too Few. It’s clear Lyft uses whatever is at their disposal to make their employees feel supported, visible, and accepted when working for them, extending as far as giving them the platform to share their stories and have their voices heard publicly.
Mastercard has been invested in diversity and inclusion for years, and their True Name program is a testament to this commitment. The program allows transgender and non-binary individuals to use their chosen name on their credit and debit cards without requiring a legal name change. This initiative was launched in response to the challenges faced by many transgender and non-binary individuals who may experience discrimination or discomfort when using their legal name. By offering this option, Mastercard is helping to create a more inclusive and accepting society. Their commitment to the LGBTQIA2S+ community is also demonstrated through their partnerships with organizations like GLAAD and the National Urban League, as well as their ongoing efforts to promote equal treatment, opportunities, and rights for everyone.
RXBAR has taken the extra step to ensure transgender and non-binary employees feel supported in their workplace. In 2020, the company announced a collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality in celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV). All of the proceeds were donated to NCTE to support the organization’s efforts to empower and protect the transgender community. They’ve continuously focused on equality, diversity, and inclusion and spoken loudly in support of the transgender community.
Sephora has been widely praised by the LGBTQ+ community for their efforts to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all customers, regardless of their gender identity. The beauty retailer has implemented policies such as gender-neutral restrooms and training for employees on how to interact with transgender customers respectfully. Sephora has also partnered with organizations such as the National Center for Transgender Equality to further support the transgender community through in-store classes for trans people. Sephora’s efforts to support transgender inclusion have made them a leader in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity.
Starbucks has implemented policies to support transgender employees, including additional healthcare benefits that cover gender reassignment surgery and resources for transitioning employees. In July 2022, Starbucks joined more than 170 organizations and the Human Rights Campaign, urging the U.S. Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. Also in 2022, the Starbucks Foundation provided more than 400 grants to non-profit organizations supporting LGBTQIA2+ communities, totaling more than $700,000. The company offers the Starbucks Pride Network, an employee resource group dedicated to providing a safe and inclusive work environment for LGBTQIA2+ employees.
The Body Shop has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and has taken steps to support transgender rights, including partnering with organizations to raise awareness and donating a portion of their sales to support LGBTQ+ causes. They’ve also managed studies to reveal data regarding consumers’ support of the Equality Act, which would update the federal law that currently protects people from discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, and religion so that it also protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public spaces, education, health care, government services and more. In 2022, they also took a bold public stance against anti-2SLGBTQ+ legislation. They focused on supporting the 2SLGBTQ+ youth amidst a devastating legislative cycle and the uptick in discrimination.
The Coca-Cola Company has supported the LGBTQ+ community for many years and has consistently received a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign since 2006. In 2004, the company created an employee LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Ally) Business Resource Group to foster a culture of equality and inclusiveness, and in 2011, the company formed transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage.
So far, we’ve covered community involvement, improving visible representation, and education. Unilever doesn’t use just one of these approaches; they use all of these approaches. As part of their expansive 2019 “United We Stand” Campaign for WorldPride Week, Unilever partnered with 6 large-scale advocacy organizations, including the Trans Justice Funding Project and PFLAG. In a very fitting initiative for WorldPride Week 2019, Unilever teamed up with well-known director Tourmaline to produce “Happy Birthday, Marsha!”, an Amazon Prime film exposing the life of Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson, the rallying fire behind the infamous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, where WorldPride Week 2019 was hosted. As co-founder of the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), Johnson was a New York City transgender icon, known for her unabolished self-love and resourcefulness, used to help homeless transgender youth off the streets. And with 20% of transgender people experiencing homelessness at some point in their life, Unilever understands that teaming up with grassroots organizations like the Trans Justice Funding Project is an effective way to combat real problems affecting local communities.
Every company interacts with their client experience in different ways. While your company may be strictly business-to-business (B2B), many companies are directly client-facing, and must juggle both their employee and customer experience. United Airlines understands that their customer journey involves many variables—the majority of which they have no control over. Their solution? Focusing on the variables they can control, such as the booking and flight experiences and being the first U.S. airline to offer the “Mx.” Title for gender non-conforming passengers. Internally, they are dedicated to including trans employees in employee outreach, developing training modules, and furthering employee education. United Airlines provides end-to-end support for all transgender people, from first company contact to the very end of the customer or employee experience.
Adapting your company culture to support, uplift, and encourage safe spaces for your transgender, transitioning, and gender non-conforming employees will call for active organizational change management and constant quality assurance. But with effective workplace engagement planning, internal education and external advertising, preparing for the questions and emotionally-charged conflict is possible. Following these nine companies as guides can set you on the right path to advocating for your transgender employees, continuing your internal innovation, and securing the most talented and engaged team you’ve had to date.
Sarah Katari is a resume writer-turned-content marketer from Anchorage, Alaska. They are a user-focused small business copywriter leveraging Anchorage’s healthy entrepreneurship community to “give first” with their own small business, Katari Creative. Sign up for their weekly small business newsletter here.
Lead Image Credit: Foreign & Commonwealth Office