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Three Ways Cissexism Shows Up At Work: How to Understand, Unpack, and Create More Equitable Workplaces

Kevin Pearson
| Director  
Kevin’s career is grounded in the belief that everyone deserves to feel excited about showing up to work, and that a diverse, equitable, and inclusive company culture shapes that experience.


On March 31st, people across the globe will take time to recognize the International Transgender Day of Visibility. In addition to celebrating the trans community on this day,  it’s important to understand that the trans community still faces numerous examples of cissexism — the discrimination both implicitly and explicitly of transgender people — that reduce their visibility in the larger culture and directly in our places of work.

Companies are beginning to recognize the importance of implementing trans-affirming policies, practices that increase representation, and equitable access to training to support trans employees, but there is still much work to be done. If you are just starting on this journey, you can get an introduction to trans-inclusion here and read more from Dr. Tash Wilder on barriers to employment, how organizations can create better workplaces for trans employees, and tips for allies.

In this blog, we’re building on Tash’s series with strategies for advancing trans employees and creating more equitable and inclusive workplaces.

Trans Visibility in Leadership

According to a 2021 report by McKinsey, trans people are generally overrepresented in entry-level roles and underrepresented in positions of leadership. To close that gap, organizations can focus on three key areas:

  • Advance existing trans employees’ career paths and remove barriers to inclusion. Analyze data from inclusion surveys as well as trans employees hiring, promotion, and attrition rates to understand where barriers to equity and inclusion might exist for trans employees in your organization.
  • Train your managers, who play a huge role in people’s progression and day-to-day experiences. Make sure people who lead teams know how to manage their biases run more inclusive team meetings and conduct 1:1s that help pave the way for career growth and advancement.
  • Take more proactive steps to recruit and hire transgender for managerial and leadership positions.

Access to Professional Development 

People in the trans community often face barriers when it comes to professional development in the workplace. Many companies fail to provide training or resources specifically tailored to the needs of transgender employees, which can result in them being excluded from career advancement opportunities. For example, transgender employees may not have access to mentors or networking events that cater to their experiences.

Companies that fail to provide adequate professional development opportunities for transgender employees perpetuate a culture of exclusion which raises their risk of losing valuable talent. It is crucial for companies to provide mentorship and training that empowers all employees, no matter their gender identity, to succeed . You can find professional development courses from organizations like The Transgender Training Institute and Equality Institute.

Visibility in Trans-Affirming Policies

The lack of visibility is seen in how organizations create, administer, and publicize internal policies. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, one-third of Fortune 500 companies still don’t offer trans-inclusive benefits. Additionally, organizations perpetuate cis-sexism by not openly sharing what trans-affirming benefits, policies, and programs they provide. Often, information about family-friendly benefits like egg-freezing or generous parental leave is automatically shared during hiring.

While the information on coverage for gender-affirming care, medical procedures, and mental health care is more likely shared if and when individuals proactively ask about them. Lack of transparency about these benefits or if and when they exist might very well be a further indication to non-cis individuals that the organization is not safe for disclosing their need for these types of benefits or other accommodations. This along with onboarding practices and employee self-identification can impact trans people.

How Will You Take Action?

The inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming or non-binary people aligns heavily with our diversity and inclusion strategies based on race and women in the workplace. Black trans women and minorities in the LGBTQ community might be even more at risk of exclusion in the workplace.

As individuals and leaders that care about equity, it’s important to fully understand and raise awareness about the challenges faced by the trans community in your workplace. By committing to at least one of these three specific areas, you’re not only working to create more just outcomes for trans employees, but you’re also fostering more inclusive, equitable workplaces for all employees.

Hopefully, with continuing awareness that extends beyond Trans Day of Visibility, we will see a more inclusive and welcoming environment for our young trans people.

March 29, 2023

If you want to learn more about becoming an ally to the trans community, contact us today!