Foster Diversity, Inclusion in the Workplace, Classroom and Beyond
Humans have an innate need to be accepted by their peers. For some, this can feel like an insurmountable feat.
Faculty and staff at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC) gathered for the second annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Celebration on June 14 to receive training on how to create an atmosphere of acceptance for everyone, transgender persons in particular.
Una Nowling, a KU alumna and transgender woman who works as an engineering consultant for Black & Veatch, is a well-known advocate and speaker representing the transgender community. She shared with the audience her presentation, “Transgender Experiences in the Workplace and Education,” which highlights the challenges that come with transition and being transgender in the workplace: from medical and education access to health care coverage issues, harassment, underemployment and international relations.
Nowling mentioned she is an exception among her transgender peers, with a successful career and accepting employer. Organizations, she said, need to ensure proper policies are in place in order to have a healthy, inclusive environment.
“Supervisors and administrators need to pay attention [regarding the actions of their employees],” Nowling said. “Be careful not to misgender, and do not refer to someone’s transgender status unless there’s an official reason. It’s protected, medical information.”
She left the celebration attendees with some simple advice: “Just treat us as human beings, use the gender and pronoun we tell you and use our proper names. That’s all it takes.”
Misty Chandler, director of student services at KUEC, said it’s important to discuss the proper use of pronouns because “pronouns are the core of one’s identity.”
“It's a very personal piece of verbal communication that we use,” she said. “It's something that really should be treated with care and to understand that to make an assumption about one's pronouns makes an assumption about one's core identity. Everyone has a pronoun -- let's just make sure to do our best to use the right one.”
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, says paying attention to new acquaintances is key.
“If you're unsure which pronoun a person uses, listen first to the pronoun other people use when referring to the person. Someone who knows the person well will probably use the correct pronoun,” the organization advises.
“If you must ask which pronoun the person uses, start with your own. For example, "Hi, I'm Alex and I use the pronouns he and him. What about you?’ Then use that person's pronoun and encourage others to do so. If you accidently use the wrong pronoun, apologize quickly and sincerely, then move forward. The bigger deal you make out of the situation, the more uncomfortable it is for everyone.”
Another tool: Include your emails in your email subject line, and pay attention when others do the same.
Chandler said KU takes its role seriously in preparing the future workforce, and it all starts in the classroom.
“We train Jayhawks to be leaders,” she said. “We prepare students to work at these places, write better, all-inclusive policies and change the workforce for the better.”
Common themes for those who want to improve the way they interact with and support others are mindfulness and dedication. Chandler recommends blocking time for professional development, even if it’s just once a quarter. See resources below.
The KUEC Diversity & Inclusion Cabinet sponsored the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Celebration. Founded in 2016, this collective assumed responsibility for campus-wide activities and goals related to diversity, inclusion and equity including efforts that address cultural competency, civility and professionalism, and to advise campus leadership on related matters.
Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace YouTube Series
Trans Toolkit for Employers (HRC)
HRC’s Corporate Equality Index
Tips for allies of Transgender People (GLAAD)
Trans Student Educational Resources
For information on creating a more harmonious workplace, register for the free Link & Learn: "Recognizing and Navigating Workplace Conflicts."