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Transgender Employees and Overcoming Barriers to Employment

transgender pride flag
Transgender Pride Flag

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do or achieve. Do what you want to do and be who you want to be. Just encourage and include each other, don’t ostracize the gender in front of you.”  
― Emma Watson 

Just over a year ago, Caitlyn Jenner graced the headlines with the simple proclamation: "I am Cait." Since then, North Carolina proposed and passed HB2, forcing transgender people to use the gendered bathroom aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth instead of the one they identify as now. The Department of Education released the Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, specifically those in K-12 schools, outlining institutionsresponsibilities under Title IX. Several states (spearheaded by Texas and including Wisconsin) are challenging the DOE's guidance and refusing to follow it. So, what does any of this have to do with our work? 

Everything. And, here's why. 

Transgender people are simply people who identify and live as a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth. Some trans people go through a complete medical and legal transition, continuing their life as stealth with no one ever knowing they were born another gender. Some trans people don't legally or medically transition at all, either because they don't desire to do so or they cannot for various other reasons. And trans folk are everywhere else in that spectrum.  

Looking around the UW Systems, one of my first questions was "were are all of the trans folk?"  Honestly, if the problem was that UW refused to hire trans people, the solution would be simple: Hire trans people. Obviously, that's not the case (go us!), and the problem is much more complicated than that.  

Some, or most, trans people face barriers that their cisgender counterparts don't, even when we consider the intersections of other social identities, such as age, race/ethnicity, class, etc. Cisgender simply refers to people who still identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. These barriers make it harder for trans people to survive, earn a degree, and land a job. So what are these barriers? 

Individual trans people can tell you their own experiences and share the commonalities within their own community, if they have one at all. Some trans folk don't. The results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey were released in 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, with the next survey's results to be released later this year. This survey found (or rather confirmed) that trans people experience discrimination, harassment, and violence in almost every aspect of their lives and usually at rates much higher than their cisgender counterparts. Below are some key findings, and you can find the link to the full report in the references section:  

SCHOOL 

  • Those who expressed a transgender identity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%); harassment was so severe that it led almost one-sixth (15%) to leave school or college.  

EMPLOYMENT 

  • Survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population at the time of the survey, with rates for Black transgender people being four times the national rate, and other trans people of color at elevated rates. 

WORK 

  • Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it. 

  • Over one-quarter (26%) reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% were harassed. 

  • Sixteen percent (16%) said they had to work in the underground economy for income such as doing sex work or selling drugs. 

  • The vast majority (78%) of those who transitioned from one gender to the other reported that they felt more comfortable at work and their job performance improved, despite high levels of mistreatment. 

SUICIDE 

  • A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population. 

IDENTITY DOCUMENTS AND HARASSMENT 

  • Of those who have transitioned gender, only one-fifth (21%) have been able to update all of their IDs and records with their new gender. 

  • Forty percent (40%) of those who presented ID (when it was required in the ordinary course of life) that did not match their gender identity/expression reported being harassed, 3% reported being attacked or assaulted, and 15% reported being asked to leave. 

HEALTH CARE

  • Nineteen percent (19%) of the sample reported being refused medical care due to their transgender status, with even higher numbers among people of color in the survey. 

Many of these aspects of life feed into each other. Not graduating high school or college reduces opportunities for success in the workplace. Being refused medical care, even for non-transitional medical purposes such as injuries and illness, can affect one's ability to go to school, work, or hold a job. Not being able to update all of one's legal documentation can out a trans person and cause further discrimination in the interviewing and employment process. So on and so forth.  

Now that we know some of the barriers, what can we do to eliminate them?  

Individual Level: 

  • Get into the practice of asking every one their pronouns when you first meet them. Include your personal pronouns on your email signature, on your nametags, in meeting introductions, on your business cards, and on/under your office name plate. If you need more practice with using pronouns, visit sites such as www.practicewithpronouns.com to review 

  • Learn about the trans experience by doing your own research. Start with a Google search and expand from there. Keep in mind that the trans experience is not monolithic, meaning that no all trans people experience the same things. Seek out diverse representations 

  • Listen to your transgender students and colleagues when they reach out to you, and affirm their experiences instead of debating them. Provide them with resources and be an advocate for them on our campuses. 

  • You should alert security or police about suspicious behavior (peering over/in stalls, exposing self) in any facility, including restrooms, but trans people existing in those spaces is not suspicious behavior.  

  • Reflect on conscious and unconscious biases around gender and gender identity. Give yourself room, grace, and compassion to grow. We cannot control the environments we were raised in, but we can control our thoughts and the behaviors we have now. 

Office/Department Level: 

  • Take initiative to ensure that everyone in the office is asking for pronouns, including them in emails, etc. Consider having professional development around gender and gender identity if members of the office are not familiar with this and do not have a grasp on why this is important yet.  

  • Enforce policies against bullying, harassment, and violence (especially Title IX) in our work, living, and learning spaces. Have zero tolerance for slurs, misgendering, misnaming, and general verbal/physically harassment. Support survivors/victims of these and enforce sanctions against perpetrators.   

Institution Level:  

  • Review our hiring and employment processes to ensure that transgender folk can use their name even if it is not their legal name throughout the entire process. Be transparent about where and when legal names must be used, and ensure that the fewest number of eyes possible has to see a legal name. This prevents outing that trans person. 

  • Review any forms or surveys that ask for demographic information. Consider whether you need to know sex (Female, Intersex, Male) or gender (Man, Woman, Transman, Transwoman, Non-binary/Genderqueer, Agender, Other), or if either are needed at all. Make sure these options are inclusive of diverse identities.  

  • Keep retention and graduation rates for transgender people, showing a commitment to them by counting them across the institution 

  • Review our benefits package and create a resource around transition-related health and medical care, including which services are and are not included in plans, trans-friendly doctors and facilities, and community resources.  

  • Review our financial aid services to ensure we can provide options to trans students who no longer have financial support from their families.  

  • Review restroom facilities in all buildings to ensure there are gender neutral or family facilities in every building. Build a map of these, and distribute it in various places.  

 

“If anyone makes you feel less than you are, for the color of you skin, for where you come from, for the gender of the person you love, for the religion you have faith in, stand up, speak up, roar. No silence till we are equal.”  
― Thisuri WanniarachchiCOLOMBO STREETS 

 

Starting Places to Learn More: 

 

References: 

http://caitlynjenner.com/category/my-story/page/4/ 

http://www.ncleg.net/sessions/2015e2/bills/house/pdf/h2v4.pdf  

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf 

http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/22/politics/transgender-school-bathroom-policy/ 

http://www.transequality.org/issues/national-transgender-discrimination-survey  

http://www.practicewithpronouns.com/#/?_k=pvyvvq  

Accessibility Tips for Social Media

Icons for social media apps.
Icons for social media apps. Creative commons image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/8583949219/.

Social media is an increasingly important part of business communications, but it’s not always accessible to people with disabilities. In a recent webinar for the Great Lakes ADA Center, disability rights activist and social media guru Debra Ruh outlined best practices for making social media communications more accessible. Frequently, these accessibility tips make media better and more user-friendly for all users:

  • Be vigilant with captions. Caption and transcribe videos and provide image captions for images. Proper captioning does more than just make your media accessible to people with disabilities. Providing descriptive captions will increase page views by helping text-based search engines find your media.
  • Use camel case (first letter capitalizations) in hashtags and other run-together text. #DisabilityRights makes more sense to screen readers (and sighted viewers) than #disabilityrights.
  • Limit your use of abbreviations and acronyms. These impact people with disabilities such as dyslexia and may be generally opaque to people outside of your organization.
  • If you don’t have enough characters in your social media post to follow best practices, provide an accessible link back to your website with more information.

To view this and other archived webinars, register for a free account with ADA Online Learning through Great Lakes ADA Center.

SAT Race Gap Widens

Hand filling out a multiple choice test
Creative commons image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertogp123/5843577306/. Resized.

A new analysis of over 1.1 million applicants to the University of California system demonstrates that race matters when it comes to the SAT. The study used data from California residents who applied to UC schools between 1994 and 2011 to isolate factors known to contribute to SAT scores such as race, parental education, and socioeconomic status. Strikingly, race was a better predictor than either socioeconomic status or parental education levels, and the three factors together predicted a large and growing discrepancy of scores, accounting for 25% of the variation between otherwise similar candidates in 1994 and 35% in 2011.

Saul Geiser, the study’s author, cautions that despite the large sample size, the study focused on California, and more research will be needed to determine whether results apply nationally. He also acknowledges that interpretation of the study may be shaded by preexisting political leanings: “To both critics and supporters of affirmative action alike, the University of California’s experience is a morality tale. For critics of affirmative action, it demonstrates what can be done . . . to expand minority enrollment by race-neutral means. For supporters, it illustrates not only the dire consequences of eliminating affirmative action but also the impossibility for American colleges and universities to keep pace with the growing diversity of the nation without taking account of race.” (Geiser, 2015, p. 2)

To read more, see “SAT’s Racial Impact” in Inside Higher Ed or read the full study, “The Growing Correlation Between Race and SAT Scores: New Findings from California.”

Summer Affirmative Action Internship Program: 2015 Highlights

SAAIP 2015 interns from across state agencies.
SAAIP interns from across state agencies, including UW Colleges and UW-Extnension, at OSER's 2015 Employment Seminar. For more information, see http://oser.state.wi.us/category.asp?linkcatid=342.

During the summer of 2015, UW Colleges and UW-Extension hosted 17 student interns through the Summer Affirmative Action Internship Program (SAAIP). Interns completed a wide variety of tasks, from creating websites and videos to coordinating county fairs and youth programs. Some highlights include:

  • Elly Kukla worked with the Milwaukee County Extension office to update the CNRED program area page (http://milwaukee.uwex.edu/cnred) to a new, more user-friendly platform. Eleanore’s work has helped the office stay current with web best practices and reach out to constituents in new, engaging ways.
  • Rob Kosmeder, intern for the UW Colleges and UW-Extension External Relations team, shot and produced videos to highlight the work done at our institutions. Chancellor Sandeen played his video “Developing Homegrown Talent at UW Colleges” at the UW Colleges Fall Convocation.
  • Manny Torres managed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts for the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey. His enthusiasm and fresh voice brought new life and engagement to social media posts.
  • As an intern for the Division of Business and Entrepreneurship, Haley Walters helped to redesign the Ideadvance website (www.uwideadvance.org). She was instrumental in writing several client success stories, such as “CTC assists Radom Corporation commercialize plasma generation device.”

We want to thank all of our talented SAAIP interns and their supervisors.

Applications for funding for 2016 SAAIP internships at UW-Extension begin today. For more information, see “SAAIP 2016 Application Instructions," and visit our online application. Applications are due by Wednesday November 25, 2015.

Businesses Reflect on Social Mobility in Madison

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison
The Wisconsin Stat Capitol in Madison. Image by Ryan Wick via WikiMedia Commons.

“If not Madison now, then where and when?” Such is the question that economist and political theorist Richard V. Reeves intends to put before the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, will be addressing the Chamber of Commerce on social mobility and income inequality.

In an interview with The Cap Times, Reeves posits that the Madison community has some unique opportunities and challenges with regard to social mobility. On the one side, Madison is more economically segregated than similarly situated midsized cities and struggles with racial equity. However, Madison benefits from a healthy economy and citizens who are by and large interested in addressing issues of inequity. Reeves argues that the stage is set for businesses to make a positive impact on equity and social mobility.

For more information, see “The Business Case for Social Mobility in Madison” in The Cap Times.

Black Citizens Underrepresented on Juries

A Jury Summons letter.
Jury Summons letter. Creative commons image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/zzpza/2226745248/.

Trial by a jury of peers is a cornerstone of the American judicial system, but a recent examination of jury selection in several Southern communities suggests that black citizens are disproportionately excluded from jury service. Some policymakers believe this may be caused by peremptory challenges, the practice which allows attorneys to reject potential jurors without giving a reason. In Caddo Parish, Louisiana, peremptory challenges were used to remove black potential jurors from the selection pool three times as often as those of other races.

In addition to being a civil rights issue, adequate representation of black citizens on juries has real-life implications for trial outcomes. Juries with two or more black jurors are statistically more likely to acquit the defendant.

For more information, see “Exclusion of Blacks from Juries Raises Renewed Scrutiny” in The New  York Times.

Writer's Experience Demonstrates Gender Bias in Publishing Industry

Writing in a notebook.
Creative commons image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/crdot/6855538268/. Resized.

Catherine Nichols had received around 50 rejections for the first few pages of her new manuscript when, frustrated, she sent it out to six new agents under the name “George Leyer.” Three of the six immediately replied with a request for more information. After sending out 50 more inquiries, Nichols noticed a pattern: she received eight times more positive responses by using the male pseudonym than by using her own name.

Nichols documents her experience in the recent Jezebel piece “Homme de Plume,” which has put additional pressure on a publishing industry already criticized for gender bias. While women are well represented within the publishing industry, prestigious award lists are often dominated by men. Nichols experience suggests that the industry’s problem may come much earlier in the pipeline than at the awards’ boards. Women writers may be published less often than male authors, which may lead them to drop out of the field.  

Nichols’ personal experience mirrors the results of numerous studies, which show that identical work profiles with masculine versus feminine names are subject to bias in teaching evaluations and in the classroom.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates Its 25 Anniversary

President George H.W. Bush signs the ADA into law.
President George H.W. Bush signs the ADA into law. Public domain image.

This past Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, providing access to many spheres of public life including employment opportunities, buildings and public spaces, and transportation. To mark the passage of the law, organizations reflect on the ADA and its legacy:

EEOC Ruling Paves Path for LGBT Non-Discrimination

Banner from an LGBT Pride demonstration.
Banner from an LGBT Pride demonstration. Creative commons image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/missbutterfly/14666755748..

In a new victory for the LGBT movement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled earlier this week it is illegal to make employment decisions based on sexual orientation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Now, the EEOC has extended protections to the LGBT community, ruling that discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender identity is in fact sex discrimination, as any understanding of these issues is necessarily “premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes or norms.”

This decision comes on the heels of last mark’s landmark Supreme Court case which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. While these decisions have been cause for celebration in the LGBT community, activists argue that non-discrimination legislation is still necessary to provide equal opportunities for LGBT individuals in the workforce, in the housing market, and in other sectors of public life.

While the EEOC ruling sets an important precedent, it is a non-binding ruling that will not necessarily be upheld in federal courts. For more information, see “US Agency Rules for Gays in Workplace Discrimination” in The New York Times or “What You Should About EEOC and the Enforcement of Protections for LGBT Workers” on the EEOC’s official website.

Microaggressions Cause Media Stir at UW-Stevens Point

UW-Stevens Point logo.
The logo for UW-Stevens Point.

UW-Stevens Point has recently been swept into a national media conversation about microaggressions. Microaggressions are the small, daily slights visited upon people of color, women, LGBT persons, and other historically oppressed communities. These slights can be intentional or unintentional, and are characterized by the alienating impact they have on the people hearing them.

UW-Stevens Point attracted media attention with a list of common microaggressions that was used at training sessions for new faculty. The list, taken from Derald Wing Sue’s 2007 article “Racial Microagressions in Everyday Life,” contains common phrases such as “Where are you from?” and “America is a melting pot” with explanations about the contexts in which these might be considered microaggressions. “Where are your from?” when directed at Asian-Americans, for example, can imply that they are not true Americans and must be from somewhere else, while “America is a melting pot” can imply that true Americans are those who have assimilated to a dominant culture.

Critics seized upon the list, arguing that it amounts to speech policing and a threat to first amendment rights. Meanwhile, supporters argue that building awareness of microaggressions and the impact they have on oppressed communities is essential to creating an inclusive climate for all. UW-Stevens Point officials have clarified that the phrases on the list are not banned speech and are only meant to illustrate the concept of microaggressions.

For more information about microaggressions at UW-Stevens Point, see “Microaggressions Cause Harm to Learning, Says Professor” from WPR. To read more about other microaggressions in academia, see “Campaigns Against Microagressions Prompt Big Concerns About Free Speech” in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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