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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Friday, April 20, 2007

600,000 Transgenders "Could" Push Diversity Envelope for Some Employers

Bill Leonard, senior writer for HR Magazine, published by the Society for Human Resource Management, yesterday posted an article on transgender workplace diversity, entitled "Transgender Issues Could Push Diversity Envelope for Some Employers." Yes, it could. It discusses the Stanton case, noting that Stanton’s case made national headlines and has left many employers pondering how they would handle a similar situation. Yours truly is quoted, in my capacity as Master of the Obvious, as making the following incredibly bland but undeniably true statements:

"Transgender issues are some of the most complicated and sensitive challenges that an employer can face," said Jillian T. Weiss, assistant professor of law and society at Ramapo College of New Jersey and principal consultant for Jillian T. Weiss & Associates. "Transgender and gender identification are also among the most misunderstood issues, but employer interest is growing."

I suppose I did say something like that. There are much more exciting quotes from Daryl Herrschaft of HRC, Brian McNaught, a corporate diversity consultant specializing in gay and transgender workplace issues, Brad Salavich of IBM, Kathleen Marvel of Chubb, and Mary Ann Horton and Sandy Van Gilder of JP Morgan Chase.

Here's the really startling quote of the article. "According to Van Gilder, among J.P. Morgan Chase’s 160,000 employees, 325 are self-identified transgender. She says the percentage is obviously not high and there may be others who have not identified themselves yet, but she is quick to add that each of those employees are valued and obviously feel safe in their work environments." That's 0.2% In a country of 300 million, if the same percentage applied, we'd have 600,000 self-identified transgender people, and probably twice or three times that in the closet. I'm no math professor, but wow.

However, I have to go along with Van Gilder's figures. In my dissertation on transgender workplace policies, I found that the percentage of openly transgender employees in my corporate sample of 22 corporate employers worked out to 0.1% (Here, the calculations are on page 95.) Thus, if a corporate employer has 1000 employees, chances are there will be one openly transgender employee, and two or three in the closet. (That is, if the company is a diversity-friendly company where it is safe to come out. Statistics suggests that employers which fire openly transgender employees have 0% openly transgender employees.)

Still, that is a very small number, compared to all employees. If you're wondering why employers are concerned about the issue, here's my explanation.

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