Start of a journey to inclusive policy

Hirers urged not to overlook talented ‘trans’

Kimberley Bird

Employers and recruitment agencies were today urged to embrace transgender people whose talents are often overlooked through fear or ignorance.

Many of those responsible for hiring staff simply do not know how to handle individuals who are non-conventional in gender terms, and may even fear the implications of giving them a senior role in an organisation.

It means the 1% of the population who class themselves as ‘trans’ often struggle to get work, or invited to interviews. Yet half of those who are in work are in professional or managerial jobs.

Kimberley Bird (pictured above), a ‘trans’ individual working for Lloyds Bank, told a seminar organised by Change Recruitment Group in Edinburgh, that too few organisations have any policies for dealing with those who change gender.

Facebook lists 64 ways of expressing gender, including ‘non-binary’, ‘gender fluid’ and ‘intersex’.

Surveys, however, show a high percentage suffer transphobic discrimination, and 53% feel a need to hide their gender from colleagues. Half have left a job because they found the working environment unwelcoming.

The easiest response is to strike someone’s name off the list

Ms Bird said recruiters faced particular challenges when presented with a CV from, for instance, a man who has clearly attended a girl’s school. Or whose LinkedIn profile includes recommendations referring to them in the opposite sex.

“There is a fear of being seen as politically incorrect, so the easiest way to handle this is to strike the name of a ‘trans’ candidate off the list,” said Ms Bird, who was born a man but transitioned six years ago. “It means many are not being given a chance when they may have so much to offer.”

Ms Bird said she was among the half of ‘gender variant’ people who considered suicide because of the difficulties they face, either in coming out, or being accepted by colleagues.

Her employer has been named top private sector employer in the Stonewall equality index, but she addressed the meeting at Change’s office in her capacity as chairman of the networking group Trans*formation.

She said there were examples of companies becoming more enlightened and mentioned an employee of Credit Suisse who will choose each day whether to come to work as a woman or a man, and who has two identity cards.

Marc Reace-Coles, inclusion manager at RBS, also addressed the 45 delegates and said policies were being put in place by the bank to encourage ‘allies’ who were supportive and helped make the workplace less threatening.

Mark McFallMark McFall (right), managing director of Change, said he decided to hold the seminar in conjunction with Scottish Financial Enterprise, after hearing Ms Bird speak at an event in London.

“It was an eye-opener,” he said. “I realised there was a lot going on in this area and that we need to start a conversation about it.”

He said policies were being put in place at Change in line with the calls for a more welcoming and inclusive workplace.

Clients’ reaction had been “fantastic”, he said.

“We don’t have all the answers about how to deal with these issues, but we can raise awareness.

“We do not want to offend anyone by not asking the right questions, simply because we are afraid.”


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