Friday, October 2, 2009

Gender Identity & Expression: From Policy to Practice

The Pride Agenda's Pride in My Workplace Coordinator Wazina Zondon reports back from our most recent event in the Business Leaders for Equality series:

The Pride in My Workplace program and JPMorgan Chase & Co. hosted the third panel in the 2009 Business Leaders for LGBT Equality Series on Tuesday evening, Gender Identity & Expression: From Policy to Practice, moderated by Marla Hassner, Pride in My Workplace Committee Co-chair and Pride Agenda Foundation Board Member.

JPMorgan Chase & Co’s Director of Corporate Diversity, Amita Mehta, discussed the company’s nine-year journey to full implementation of inclusive policies. One major motivator was a 2003 employee survey that asked LGBT staff to self-identify, in which 11% of the LGBT staff said they were transgender. The company’s global commitment to transgender employees, including full medical benefits, has been successful because of support from senior management support and advocacy from JPMorgan Chase's LGBT affinity group, Pride Network.

Debra Oppenheimer, a Senior Network Specialist at a Rochester-based company spoke about the difficulties she experienced while transitioning in the workplace and simultaneously educating and lobbying her Texas-based firm to create inclusive policies and transition guidelines.

Long Island transgender activist and Software Engineer, Eileen Thomas, who transitioned in the workplace in 2005, overcame the challenge this summer of interviewing for a new job as her female self, even though much of her prior work record was under a different name. Although successfully working at a new company, Eileen, like many other transgender professionals, had to navigate whether and how she should disclose personal information about her past, including her transition. Animated conversations with attendees continued over cocktails after the Q&A.

Several municipalities in New York State, including New York City and Rochester, as well as Suffolk County, have extended their human rights law to protect gender identity and expression in the workplace. But there is no state-wide law to protect all transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would extend protections in employment, public accommodation, housing, and credit and is currently pending in the State Senate.

Learn more about companies who have voluntarily adopted protections for transgender employees in our 2009 publication: Transgender Issues in the Workplace: Lessons from Across New York State.

For more information and support on creating a fully inclusive workplace, please contact Pride in My Workplace Coordinator, Wazina Zondon at (212) 627-0305 or

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