Vast majority of trans people have experienced negativity at work in past 12 months

Two people in a workplace

Disquieting new research has revealed that the vast majority of trans people – 95 per cent – have experienced some form of negative behaviour at work in the past year. 

In its latest Out@Work Barometer, corporate advisors Boston Consulting Group (BCG) surveyed more than 2,000 trans and gender non-conforming people across eight countries, and conducted 34 in-depth interviews with respondents about their experiences in the workplace

BCG found that during the past 12 months, just five per cent of trans employees surveyed had not experienced any sort of negative behaviour from colleagues.

Across the countries surveyed, an average of 29 per cent of trans workers were fully out to their co-workers. Brazil had the highest number (43 per cent) while France had the lowest (19 per cent). 

The main reasons trans people are not out to their colleagues, clients or customers, included fear of a negative response (19 per cent), previous negative experiences with an employer (19 per cent) and not wanting to feel like a “spokesperson” for the entire trans community (19 per cent). 

One employee in France told BCG they hoped one day that identity will not matter in the work place at all: “My ideal vision would be to no longer have to say that we are homosexual, bisexual, transgender. As a non-binary person, I just want to be neutral.” 

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In the UK specifically, the research revealed that fewer than a third (29 per cent) of trans employees are fully out to their co-workers, while 47 per cent said they are not fully out and do not present their true gender to those with whom they work.

Fewer a third of trans people are out to their co-workers in the UK. (Canva)

One of the most consistent findings across the eight countries surveyed was that trans employees are uncomfortable being out to HR and benefits teams. 

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In Germany, the UK and the US, trans folks named HR departments as the stakeholders they felt most uncomfortable being open with, and a majority of other nations ranked them the second-most uncomfortable. 

Most shockingly, a large number of trans and gender non-conforming employees have faced negative experiences at work. These range from gossip about their gender identity through to invasive personal questions, misgendering, discrimination and sexual harassment. More than 40 per cent of survey respondents reported being victims of sexual harassment or misconduct at work.

An average of 60 per cent of respondents reported 10 or more aggressive behaviours or negative work experiences in the past year that they attribute to their gender identity or expression. In the UK, almost three-quarters said this had happened to them. In the US, 62 per cent said this routinely happened.

Across all eight countries, one-third of trans and gender non-conforming employees said their gender identity and expression has hurt their career. That share was much higher in India (63 per cent), the UK (52 per cent) and Australia (48 per cent).

“People laugh about you, tease you, and deadname you. They deny you opportunities for career growth and to be part of a competitive project,” one trans woman from India said in an interview. 

“A lot of people think it’s OK to sexually harass trans people because there is nothing protecting them.”

Sixty-three per cent of those survey in the UK reported being misgendered while 62 per cent were asked invasive gender questions.

The issues faced by trans people were not reserved for when they were actually doing the job, many said recruitment processes have not been inclusive and a company’s policies have put them off applying for a job all together. 

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Across the country’s surveyed, 76 per cent have chosen not to apply for a job due to a company’s lack of trans culture or policies and 61 per cent have also declined a job offer for the same reason.

 In the UK, 76 per cent chose not to apply for a position while 61 per cent declined a job offer. In the US, the figures were 67 per cent and 58 per cent.

An average of about one third (32 per cent) reported that they felt the recruiting process was not inclusive. 

A 23-year-old non-binary teacher in New York, who applied for a job at another school, said the job interviews turned them off.

“I knew right away it was not going to be the right job for me,” they said. “No job is worth going back into the closet and not presenting as my full and authentic self.” 

‘We have huge progress to make’

Bobbi Pickard, the chief executive officer of Trans in the City, said: “The findings of this extensive report are shocking and surprising only to those not aware of the situation for trans and non-binary people in our society and, by reflection, in our businesses.

“We have huge progress to make and work to do across all sectors of industry – complacency needs to end and the lack of awareness of trans and non-binary people needs to be remedied. 

“Many organisations extoll the virtues and benefits of “bringing your authentic self to work” – it’s now time for those organisations to ensure trans and non-binary people are provided the support and help to do so.”

For the research, BCG surveyed 2,230 trans and gender non-conforming employees in Brazil, Mexico, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and India. 

To compare trans peoples’ experiences with those of other employees, the group also surveyed 2,283 cisgender, straight employees and 2,245 cisgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual employees.

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