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When John Becomes Josie: What Companies Can Do to Support Gender Transitioning in the Workplace -- Part 1

Aug 21, 2023
Image featuring symbols for male, female, and intersex genders, representing diverse gender identities.


Imagine the following situation:

As the Chief of Human Resources in a prominent Fortune 1000 organization situated in Des Moines, Iowa, you find yourself on the brink of an unexpected and transformative journey one Friday afternoon.

In your last meeting of the day, John, a skilled marketing manager known for his innovative strategies and dedication, informed you of his decision to go through the gender transitioning process of becoming Josie.

Little did you know that that meeting would not only reshape the very fabric of the culture within your organization but also put your company's dedication to diversity and inclusion to the test.

What should your next steps be?

In this contemporary landscape, organizations are increasingly acknowledging the vital importance of cultivating workplaces that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion as core principles. And a fundamental component of this inclusiveness involves providing steadfast support to individuals navigating gender transition.

Indeed, organizations can assume a pivotal role in fostering an atmosphere of acceptance, which can result in tangible advantages for the organization. From attracting diverse talent to fostering employee well-being to improving the company’s image, the positive effects of such support will permeate every aspect of the organization.


Understanding the Gender-Transitioning Journey

The journey of transitioning from one gender to another is deeply personal and can vary significantly from person to person.

When transitioning from a man to a woman, for example, in addition to gender counseling, the transition process may involve electrolysis, voice lessons, hormone therapy, facial feminization surgery, and genital surgery. If hormones are not enough to help create sufficient breast tissue, some individuals will take the step of breast enlargement surgery.

It is important we recognize that, clearly, this is not a process someone would undertake because of some adolescent fascination with alternative lifestyles.

We also need to remember that not all individuals will follow the same path. The steps taken may differ based on factors such as individual preferences, cultural attitudes, availability of resources, and medical and legal considerations. In any case, support from medical professionals, therapists, and a strong network of friends and family is crucial for those undergoing this journey.

For more information on feminizing surgery, also called gender-affirming surgery or gender-confirmation surgery, read Mayo Clinic’s comprehensive report HERE.


The top Five Reasons Organizations Should Support Individuals Transitioning in The Workplace


1. To Create a Climate of Inclusion and Success

Wholeheartedly embracing diversity and encompassing differences such as gender diversity, can have a profound impact on cultivating an inclusive and forward-thinking workplace atmosphere. When employees representing a wide array of backgrounds experience genuine recognition, appreciation, and a sense of belonging, they are emboldened to contribute their distinct viewpoints and innovative concepts. This collaborative environment becomes a fertile ground for creative thinking and inventive problem-solving.

2. To Support Talent Attraction and Retention

Organizations that place a high value on inclusivity and actively provide support for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals tend to draw a broader and more varied range of talent. Moreover, by demonstrating a commitment to inclusion, organizations can retain skilled employees because they feel comfortable and valued in the workplace. So, creating truly inclusive work environments translates into a dual benefit: attracting diverse talents and nurturing an environment where skilled individuals choose to stay and contribute their best.

3. To Fulfill Legal and Ethical Responsibilities

Many regions have put in place laws against discrimination to protect people's gender identity and expression. As a result, these organizations are obligated by both the law and ethical standards to create a workplace free from discrimination and harassment, even during times when individuals are transitioning. This means organizations must make sure that everyone feels safe and respected. In fact, their legal responsibilities and ethical values should emphasize treating all individuals fairly and equally.

4. To Reduce Turnover and Related Costs

Discrimination and inadequate support can act as catalysts for employee turnover, resulting in additional costs linked to recruiting, onboarding, and training new personnel. However, organizations can mitigate this issue and curtail these expenses by cultivating an inclusive atmosphere that accommodates individuals in transition. By doing so, organizations create a context where turnover is minimized, subsequently reducing the financial burden associated with hiring, integrating, and educating new employees. Prioritizing inclusivity during transitions not only supports employees but also offers a cost-effective approach to talent retention.

5. To Fulfill Humanitarian and Social Responsibilities

Organizations hold a significant responsibility to ensure fairness for all. When organizations offer support to individuals as they navigate periods of change, they are also supporting the ideal of a more balanced and just society. This action sends a powerful message that the organization genuinely values and respects every single employee. Through tangible support, organizations reinforce the notion that they are devoted to upholding equal and fair treatment not only within their own ranks but also in the wider community.


As you can see, supporting individuals transitioning in the workplace is not only the right thing to do from a human rights and ethical standpoint, but it also brings tangible benefits to organizations in terms of employee well-being, productivity, reputation, and overall success.

Next week, we will look at some common barriers individuals who are transitioning face that can impact their wellbeing and professional growth as well as some solutions. We will also include a checklist you can use to ensure your organization is ready to support those transitioning within your organization.

Stay tuned!


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