In recent years, the visibility and acceptance of transgender individuals in the workplace have grown. With many companies making strong pushes towards more robust diversity and inclusion initiatives, more members of the transgender community are moving up the corporate ladder and smashing the ceiling at the top, taking executive roles and proving to be skilled and capable leaders in a variety of industries.
Although notable progress has been made for the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace, many in the trans community still live under the pressure of hostility, lack of understanding, and social stigma. There is increased awareness of the issues that transgender individuals face, but many workplaces remain either unaware of the issues or unaware of how to address them.
Leaders in business and the LGBTQIA+ community are becoming vocal about the need for a better understanding of the needs of transgender employees. Those trans individuals who have risen to high positions in their companies are creating representation for their community and paving the way for more companies to open the way for better inclusivity.
Role Models in the Workplace
Most people, trans or not, can benefit from role models in their positions. Having a mentor can be even more critical for trans individuals who are an extreme minority. Only approximately 2% of individuals worldwide identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender fluid. Even though there is increased acceptance of transgender people, leading to more people feeling comfortable coming out as trans, there remains a need for leaders and mentors in the business space.
Robbie Gallegos and Em Rodriguez both work for the virtual assistance company Cyberbacker. Both hold executive positions and identify as transgender. Rodriguez is the Vice President of the Career Division at Cyberbacker and is known as “Mom” to the Cyberbacker team for her ability to foster an accepting and supportive environment at the company. Gallegos is the Vice President of the Launch Division of the company and is passionate about advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community. Both Gallegos and Rodriguez stand as visible representations of success for their community.
“My unique experience regarding a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people started on my first day here at Cyberbacker,” explains Gallegos, “In the first client interview I had, the client started with the question: “Before we start, what pronoun should I use for you?” which set the mood and made me immediately feel welcomed and comfortable here.”
Companies that strive to create a comfortable and diversity-focused work environment will likely have better retention. Their staff will reach higher levels of leadership because they are supported and given a safe space to live and work authentically.
“We’re all equally measured for our productivity and effectiveness,” says Gallegos, “Every day, I meet with different leaders, and they all see me as equal without any discrimination.
The importance of mentorship and representation is not lost on Gallegos. “I have not just experienced growth in my company, but I’ve also managed to help other LGBTQIA+ employees grow and be promoted too.”
Creating an Environment of Success
“For me being part of the LGBTQIA+ community and a working executive must be balanced,” says Rodriguez. That balance exists within ensuring that they, as executives, remain equal-opportunity while still ensuring that they are included in the organization’s anti-discrimination initiatives. “We cannot immediately identify if the company that we are applying for is LGBTQIA+ friendly,” says Rodriguez, “We must make sure that people like us are included in all anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and anti-discrimination policies. Being in an executive role is not one size fits all. It needs to be diverse because the people we interact with have different personalities too.”
The onus is on companies to create an environment that fosters success for all executives. It allows talented trans individuals to grow in their roles. Wynne Nowland, CEO of insurance firm Bradley and Parker and transgender female, is clear that her coworkers’ support allowed her transition within her executive role to flourish. “I had presented as male in a conservative industry for so long that coming out seemed terrifying,” Nowland told Insider, “I wasn’t sure what reactions to expect, and I was definitely anxious when I walked through the front door. But my employees rushed to greet me with smiles, hugs, and encouragement.”
Like Gallegos and Rodriguez, Nowland acknowledges her role as a mentor and representative of the LGBTQIA+ community, with all of the responsibilities that comes with it. “I’ve always been someone who tries to mentor and empower others, and since coming out, I’ve hoped to do that for other trans people who are considering transitioning in a world that makes it more complicated than it has to be.”
Trans executives are making an impact by living their lives proudly out loud, authentically, and leading the way for others in the community. By showing that one can be both trans and a high-ranking leader in their field, others will follow suit, paving a path for more transgender representation in all industries.
About the Author: Amanda Reseburg has been a freelance journalist since 2016, with work featured in Scary Mommy and the Beloit Daily News. She was a creative entrepreneur for 13 years and founded her own hospice photography volunteer program, profiled by PBS. She lives in Orlando with her husband and three children.