A majority of transgender employees say they have a negative work experience—here’s what HR can do about it

You can’t talk about gender equity in the workplace without acknowledging the poor experience many transgender employees face at work. 

new study released Tuesday by the nonprofit think tank Coqual finds that transgender employees report higher levels of negative interactions in the workplace than their cisgender peers. The research looks at the current state of gender equity within organizations and paints a clear picture that employers still have significant work to do to promote true intersectionality and belonging for all employees. 

According to Coqual’s survey of over 5,000 professionals, 60% of transgender and gender-diverse workers in the U.S. say that gender-nonconforming employees experience negative stereotypes and social interactions at work. In comparison, only 39% of surveyed cisgender professionals agree. Almost half of transgender and gender-diverse professionals say they’ve been told their gender nonconformity is “just a phase,” while 54% say they’ve been misgendered at work. And 41% of those surveyed say colleagues have told them they make their peers uncomfortable due to their identity. 

“It illustrates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equity,” said Lanaya Irvin, CEO of Coqual, when presenting the report earlier this week. The findings are timely. This year has seen a record number of anti-trans laws, and as of April, over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills had been introduced in U.S. state legislatures, according to CNN. 

But Irvin is not discouraged. “The data we see shows that younger professionals are really challenging these outdated gender norms and embracing a much more expansive view of gender and identity,” she said at the event. “With this work, we’re encouraging our partners also to do a bit of work, to get ready [and] look beyond the binary, to prepare for the future of gender in the workplace.”  

Irvin called for more employers to implement policies, programs, and people management strategies reflecting a gender-diverse workforce. Action can look as simple as educating leaders and employees so they avoid burdening transgender employees with “potentially invasive or insensitive questions,” wrote Fortune’s Paige McGlauflin in March. Leaders can encourage more employees to share their pronouns and obtain regular feedback from their LGBTQ affinity groups. 

“We know that we must apply an intersectional lens to this work, considering how race, class, caste, sexuality, and other dimensions of identity bring complexity and impact our experiences in the workplace,” said Irvin.

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