Mar 28, 2024 - News

How transgender people experience the Bay Area workplace

Photo of a black dress shoe with shoelaces representing the colors of the transgender flag

The colors of the transgender flag represented on a pair of shoes. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Companies in the Bay Area have committed to a string of equity and inclusion policies in recent years, but members of underrepresented communities say it's not enough — especially as California prepares for a potential influx of transgender people and youth amid a surge in anti-trans bills in red states.

The big picture: Ahead of citywide celebrations of Transgender Day of Visibility this Sunday, advocates are highlighting the challenges trans and nonbinary workers face as they remain under fire across the U.S. and historically underemployed.

What's happening: Many LGBTQ people see San Francisco as a safe haven, but then sometimes get to their companies and realize they're not "walking the walk," said Abby Holtfort, co-chair of Indeed's iPride & Gender Identity for the Americas employee resource group.

  • A 2021 Indeed survey found that 75% of LGBTQ+ workers believe their employers are more concerned with appearing inclusive than with having a real-world impact — only 25% said they believe DEI is a real priority for their companies.
  • Meanwhile, more than one in four trans people report losing a job due to bias, and over 75% say they've experienced some form of workplace discrimination, per the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What they're saying: Though California law protects trans and nonbinary people from harassment at work, it's important for employers to set clear policies so the "burden of proof and explanation" doesn't fall on the employee, Holtfort told Axios.

  • "Am I gonna go to HR and ask for accommodations so that I can take extra time off to have gender-affirming surgery that is not covered under my medical benefits?" they listed as one example. "It can feel like a massive hill to climb."
  • Holtfort said companies can take some key steps: implementing an open benefits policy that's transparent about health coverage for care like transitions and family planning; requiring anti-harassment trainings that cover trans experiences; establishing clear HR pathways for reporting and addressing discrimination; and sponsoring counseling for employees whose mental health is negatively impacted by anti-trans legislation.

Companies can also make efforts to partner with and invest in local LGBTQ-serving groups — like the Castro-based Lesbians Who Tech — to "see a blueprint for what they should be doing in the workplace," Holtfort noted, citing the Bay's rich LGBTQ history.

What's next: San Francisco Pride is holding its annual Transgender Day of Visibility celebration this Sunday at the Phoenix Hotel.

The big picture: Though data is difficult to compile, SF LGBT Center told Axios that it's already seen a spike in demand for services, which it attributed in part to an increase in trans people and youth who move to the Bay from GOP-led states.

  • Under former executive director Pau Crego, San Francisco's Office of Transgender Initiatives took several steps to enact policies around all-gender restrooms and the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data.
  • Workplace DEI initiatives, however, are increasingly facing cuts regardless of company location.
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