How To Create a Trans Inclusive Workplace So Employees Can Reach Their Full Potential

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Kate Fergusson is Head of Responsible Business at Pinsent Masons and leads award winning community investment and D&I programmes, which includes chairing the Allies network. In this blog, Kate shares Pinsent Mason’s proactive gender identity inclusion strategies.

I’ve read many stories in recent months about firms developing strategies to support gender identity issues in response to a colleague taking the, often very brave, first steps of telling their employer that they are planning to transition.

I believe that any progress which moves us towards a truly inclusive and safe work place where trans colleagues can be themselves is to be welcomed.  However, as employers, I think our focus now needs to be less reactive and more proactive.  We know that there is a wide spectrum of different gender identity issues and as well as protecting and supporting our staff, we also need to demonstrate our commitment to potential job applicants, our clients and our future colleagues.

As the top performing law firm on the 2017 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the first law firm to ever appear on the Index back in 2008, Pinsent Masons is proud to have been leading the way on LGBT equality in the legal sector for over 10 years. However, it would be wrong to say there were not a few raised eyebrows when we increased our focus on gender identity equality over three years ago.

Many people may have questioned why we allocated resources to support something which it is estimated affects only 1% of the population (EHRC, 2012) and none of our own staff, openly at least. I have a simple answer to anyone who still questions that approach: unless we create an environment where someone can be open about their gender identity, we risk losing that person from the business, or at best not getting the most out of them as they are unable to bring their whole self to work. It’s a virtuous circle but one that we have only been able to realise with the support of experts like Rachel Reese who, as a trans woman, has helped us to understand what a trans inclusive workplace really looks like.

I am proud of the bold approach we’ve taken on gender identity inclusion from introducing gender identity monitoring two years ago (and encouraging other law firms to follow suit) to amending our databases to allow clients, staff and contacts to identify as MX.

We've undertaken a comprehensive review of our uniform and dress code policies to ensure that they are genuinely gender neutral and we've run many overwhelmingly inspiring speaker events to ensure all our people understand what gender identity means and are prepared to give the best support possible if one of their colleagues does make the decision to transition.  We’ve also rebranded our Straight Allies network as ‘Allies’ to promote a culture of tolerance and support where it is 100% clear that transphobic bullying or banter will not be tolerated. There are now around 200 allies who have pledged to stand up for their LGBT colleagues across our business.

In the last year, we’ve run innovative face to face Inclusive Leadership training for all our partners and managers globally because we want to tackle bias and promote behaviours which help us to create a level playing field.

As to the future, our first gender identity monitoring revealed that we do have staff who identify with a different gender from the one assigned at birth. If those staff are not out at work then that means that there is still work to be done so all our colleagues can achieve their full potential.

Kate Fergusson, Head of Responsible Business - Pinsent Masons LLP