Trans Can Work’s VP Of Programming On Fostering An Inclusive Workplace

What are the components of an inclusive workplace?

Along with her team, Drian Juarez, VP of Programming for LA-based organization Trans Can Work, has spent months building a toolkit to answer this question.

Through both employer trainings and hiring programs, Trans Can Work’s mission is to advance workplace inclusion for the transgender community. Founded by Michaela Mendelsohn, an owner in the Pollo Loco franchise and a well-known transgender activist, Trans Can Work has served thousands of people and is currently working on national expansion.  

Earlier this year, the organization formed a historic partnership with the City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to launch a massive anti-transphobia campaign.  

Despite the fact that about 40% of West Hollywood residents identify as LGBTQ, as well as the fact that West Hollywood was one of the first municipalities to establish a Transgender Advisory Board, Juarez said transgender people still face challenges and discrimination in the area.

“We started hearing these complaints and started to think about, what can we do to educate employers to create a safer environment for our community members?” said Juarez.

And so, the partnership was formed, which provided funding for Trans Can Work to lead a quarterly series of diversity and inclusion trainings with about a hundred local employers.

Based on the conversations the Trans Can Work team had with employers during these trainings, they created an inclusive workplace toolkit, which has been distributed to over 500 West Hollywood businesses.

“This toolkit is really designed for HR departments and recruitment teams,” said Juarez, “to utilize when they’re onboarding, when developing job announcements to make sure they’re using inclusive language, when designing their promotional material or online presence like a website—making sure they’re putting information there that will relate to the transgender community—tools on inclusive pronouns and how to use them, and resources for HR to do a deeper dive into all systems and how to make them inclusive.”

Employers interested in learning more about the toolkit can contact Trans Can Work. In the meantime, Juarez offered a few guidelines for employers working to foster an inclusive workplace:

“First, it’s about recognizing the importance of a diverse workforce. Once you have that as part of the energy that is guiding this work, then you really start looking at the right ways of doing things.”

You start by making good policies, she said.

“You have to have good policies in place for addressing any aggression that happens in the workplace. Microaggressions are a big thing for trans people. When we are continually misgendered, that can create a hostile work environment.”

But having the right policies isn’t enough. There must also be a plan in place to enforce and promote those policies. From there, it is about training your workforce and hiring diverse employees.

For hiring, Juarez recommends partnering with an organization like Trans Can Work or a local LGBTQ center.

Trainings, she added, must be conducted at all levels. Those in high up positions set the tone for the company, she said, and as such, it is vital they participate.

Juarez is proud of what Trans Can Work has accomplished, but she hopes that one day the organization won’t need to exist.

“At the end of the day, what trans people want is what everybody else wants: to have a good job, to be able to have a livable wage, and to just live a life that is authentic and feels good to us. That is what every human wants, that is what trans people want, and so when thinking about hiring, it’s about giving people an opportunity and not letting the stereotypes or misinformation out there taint people’s perception of our community.”

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