Leadership For The Future


How to transition well in the workplace?

In 2005, I was working for a government organisation promoting and supporting small and medium-sized businesses in the capital.  I was approached by a staff member telling me that he wanted to live as a woman.    This was well before the Equality Act 2010 and the protected characteristic of gender re-assignment had been introduced.

At that time, we had had no training for staff to help them handle these situations so I had to work with the Gender Trust in the UK to make sure we had a good approach.  I worked with the individual’s line manager to make sure that we sequenced the communication with clients, management and staff as well as in the individual’s family, so that the transition went as well as possible.   I am no longer in touch with the individual concerned so don’t know what the experience is like now.

Even almost 10 years on, many transgender people find they are the subject of discrimination.  Examples such as organisations not having gender neutral facilities, insisting on rigid and gendered dress codes, and colleagues side-lining or ignoring them, means there is still prejudice in the workplace.

Just recently on the trip to San Francisco I met with Dana Pizzuti, a Senior Vice President in a biotech sector company in South San Francisco.  Her experience of transitioning in the workplace has led her to write a book.

Originally Dana set out to write a memoir but she soon realised that she needed to write a guide, the one that she didn’t have when she was transitioning.  The book—Transitioning in the Workplace: A Guidebook—offers transgender people and their employers everything they need to know to ensure a successful transition in the workplace.

By the way in a previous article about dress code see previous article on “What’s the dress code?”, I mentioned the UK Government’s recent guidance which recommends that employers should allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity.

The imperative is not just about being an inclusive employer and making the most of your best talent.  Ignoring good inclusion practice means you could end up having to make a pay out, as Primark found to its cost.  An employment tribunal asked them to make a £47,000 award to an individual who was told she had a ‘man’s voice’.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss any challenges around transitioning in the workplace or about dress code for transgender employees. We’d be pleased to help you.