“From dull grey to technicolour” – why we’ve published a trans* inclusion guide

Martin York
By , - Responsible Business

Almost half (48%) of transgender people under 26 have considered suicide at some point and many have engaged in some form of self-harm. Nearly 40% of trans*[1] people have experienced physical intimidation and threats and 81% have experienced silent harassment (e.g. being stared at or whispered about).

In 2016 this is simply unacceptable. And I truly believe employers are in a strong position to bring those numbers down.

That’s why we’ve created a brand new trans* inclusion guide to support employees across our business: to help those who are transitioning themselves, but also to provide advice to those working with or line-managing somebody who is.

And I’m proud to say we’re the first major Japanese tech firm in the UK to do so.

In this post I’m going to explain why the guide is so important and what it means to our people.

Why trans* inclusion mattersgender

When I spoke to Holly, a Fujitsu employee who’s currently in the early stages of transitioning, she described the pain of having to hide who she really was and how her performance began to suffer as a result.

Holly eventually felt able to come out to her manager. She later contacted our LGBT community, Shine, and through it colleagues who had already transitioned.

“They understood what I was going through and offered practical advice. Really it was less about what they said and more that they were there for me and demonstrated that things would be ok. It helped me to come to terms with who I am.”

It was great that Holly had the support she needed. Had she worked at a less inclusive company things could have been much worse. But we still felt we could do more to make trans* people feel comfortable through every stage of their transition.

Trans* inclusion is hugely positive for individuals, but it can also have a wider-reaching positive impact on an organisation. Particularly as we know diverse and inclusive teams outperform homogenous ones.

As Holly said: “I’m proud to be part of a company that helps and supports me and other trans* people. It makes me want to help the company in return.”

If somebody has a gender identity they don’t feel comfortable exposing to colleagues, they’ll likely leave and move somewhere else.

You risk losing a valuable and talented member of your team. Perhaps they’ve been with you for years, maybe you’ve spent a lot of money developing them and they’re extremely good at their job.

But they walk out because of a problem that could so easily have been fixed.

Who is the guide for?

The ultimate aim of this guide is to make the workplace a safer and more inclusive place for trans* employees. And arguably the best way to achieve that is by helping those who are line-managing or working with trans* people with the best way to approach certain situations.

Being called ‘he’ or ‘sir’ when you see yourself as a woman, for example, can be extremely insulting and embarrassing.

Simply making people aware of things like that can completely transform the conversation and the way people interact with trans* individuals and have a hugely positive impact on their working life.

Mark is a manager whose team member recently came out to him as trans*. He highlighted the importance of communication and understanding.

“Transitioning is still a taboo subject for some, and when you consider what each individual has to go through just to get to the point of disclosing to other people…my team member nearly didn’t make it through their darker days.

“But they did disclose and I was able to get guidance when we needed it. We’re talking about people’s lives – we have to get this right. Until you’ve been involved in a case and you understand the turmoil a person goes through, you just can’t grasp the importance of this.”

Having a guide like this can make that process much less daunting for those who lack experience of trans* issues.

“Anyone having to deal with this situation – particularly managers – will be nervous and want to make sure they’re doing the right things. It’s not complicated, but it is unusual and took me out of my comfort zone.

“The guide has really helped in terms of clarifying terminology, explaining how to positively interact with a trans* person and providing practical information about what transitioning means and what to expect.

“It’s also helped me understand how my team member is feeling and how difficult a change it must be. It helps you step into the other person’s shoes.”

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Only the beginning…

This guide is by no means perfect. We can only ever provide broad-brush guidelines because no one scenario or person is the same.

But it’s certainly a move in the right direction to becoming a truly inclusive workforce. And it’s the first in a series we are developing.

As Holly said, we’ve come a long way already.

“We know there are lots of older people who couldn’t contemplate transitioning in the past because of negative attitudes in society,” she said. “Now there is much more support, and the fact that we’ve created this guide and the official company recognition and support that goes with it mean a great deal to me.”

Appealing to anyone going through a transition who has yet to come out to colleagues, Mark said:

“If you’re struggling and too scared to talk to your manager, contact your LGBT+ network for advice and get the support you need.

“Don’t suffer alone.”

I want to thank everyone who has been involved in creating this guide. Naturally, the process needed to be consultative in order to create something that helps the people it’s meant to.

We spent a lot of time with our Shine Gender Identity sub-group and external partners, including Stonewall, Trans*formation, Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

All of them have been instrumental in helping us put this together.

Now I’ll leave you with something Fujitsu employee and main author of the guide Charlotte Crawley said when talking about her own transition:

“I used to live my life in dull grey. Now I see things in full technicolour.”

I can’t think of a better way to illustrate why this guide is so important.

If you’d like to find out more about this guide or request a copy please contact me via ShineLGBT@uk.fujitsu.com

Follow @ShineLGBT on Twitter for lots more info on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace.

Interested in LGBT+ issues? Read:

Pride in London 2016: solidarity, empowerment and inspiration!

[1] The term trans* is used in this article as an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs in some way from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Martin York

Martin York

Delivery Assurance, Central Government; Chair, Shine LGBT+ employee network at Fujitsu UK&I
Martin is an experienced Business Consultant who has worked across multiple market sectors in the ICT industry for over 20 years, following a career in financial services.

He is a BITC Business Connector alumnus, has played a leading part in development of Fujitsu’s Responsible Business and Diversity and Inclusion approach, and is engaged in enhancing Fujitsu’s UK STEM engagement approach.

Martin joined Fujitsu in October 1996.
Martin York

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