How Chevron Became a Model Workplace for Transgender Employees

How Chevron Became a Model Workplace for Transgender Employees

While many companies today express a commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion, especially during Pride Month, actions often speak louder than words. And over the past few decades, one company that has consistently shown up for the LGBTQ+ community is Chevron.

In 1986, at a time when many official bodies were ignoring the AIDS epidemic, Chevron stood with 13 other San Francisco Bay Area employers to promote HIV and AIDS education in the workplace. In 1991, with the support of leadership, employees founded Chevron’s first affinity group, the PRIDE (Promote Respect, Inclusion, & Dignity for Everyone) network, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In the years that followed, the company was ahead of the curve in introducing a variety of policies and benefits designed to support LGBTQ+ employees and their families, including introducing transgender healthcare benefits in 2012, becoming the first U.S. energy company to do so. And this isn’t the only way Chevron has raised the bar on transgender inclusion in particular — within the energy industry, and beyond.

In 2005, Chevron released a 10-page guidebook called Transgender @ Chevron. Designed to “foster dialogue and understanding of transgender issues in the workplace,” the document provides guidance for transgender employees, their supervisors and managers, and their coworkers so that employees “can be honest and open about who they are.”

Chevron has made some updates to its policies and recommendations since the guidebook was first published, with the most recent version, Transgender at Chevron, having been released in 2017. The Transgender Law Center cites the company as an inspiration for its own Model Transgender Employment Policy, which aims to provide a basis for other employers to adopt similar policies and support systems.

To create a workplace where all employees can experience a sense of belonging and feel empowered to do their best work, you need the right policies and resources. Building these from scratch may seem like a lot of work, but looking to companies that have gone before you can help. Here are a few of the most meaningful elements from the Transgender at Chevron guidebook to steer your efforts.

1. Clear statements on why transgender inclusion matters

Survey data underscores the uphill struggle that transgender individuals face to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. To combat this, Chevron’s guidebook quickly establishes that transgender inclusion is important to the business.

For one thing, the front cover immediately references “LGB and T,” with the introduction expanding on this idea by stating “Just as there are gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees at Chevron, there are also employees who are transgender. Some are ‘out,’ others are not.” Since transgender erasure is an ongoing issue that can limit transgender individuals’ access to everything from adequate healthcare to basic protections, these statements create a baseline of understanding from which Chevron can provide further education and support.

The guidebook goes on to explain: “We have an inclusive work environment and actively embrace a diversity of people, ideas, talents, and experiences.” In doing so, it highlights one of the biggest business benefits of diversity and inclusion: Welcoming people from all walks of life allows companies to tap a wide range of perspectives, leading to greater innovation and better results.

Chevron also includes a “bottom line” statement to ensure there can be no doubts about its position on transgender inclusion: “Chevron believes having an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees is important. . . . It’s the Chevron way.”

2. Educational resources, including a glossary on terminology 

In some instances, employees and managers may want to be supportive of transgender team members but don’t know enough about what it means to be transgender to create a truly welcoming work environment. This can lead to misunderstandings and unintentionally hurtful language and behavior that can make transgender employees feel like they don’t belong.

The Transgender @ Chevron guidebook gets ahead of this challenge by providing a glossary of “terminology you may encounter,” including definitions of terms like “gender identity” and “transitioning” that may be unfamiliar to some people. The most recent version of the guidebook also highlights terms like “cisgender” and “gender expression” that have grown more common in the intervening years, as well as explaining that some phrases (like “transsexual” and “gender identity disorder”) are now considered outdated and often offensive. Since language is always evolving, this is a great example of how your resources and policies should evolve over time.

The guidebook also includes links to other places where employees can learn more about transgender inclusion, such as the Human Rights Campaign’s website and resources on Chevron’s intranet.

3. Guidance for employees who are not ready to come out or share about their transition 

Coming out as transgender at work and making the decision to transition can be intimidating and overwhelming. Not only are there no guarantees around how people will react, but the process of transitioning is often complex. Chevron’s guidebook seeks to ease employees’ anxieties by providing both reassurances and practical support.

First, the current guidelines call out: “Transitioning employees have the right to openly express their gender identity without fear of consequences. Chevron supports that right through the company’s equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policies.” For those not ready to come out to their entire team just yet, it goes on to emphasize that “the transgender status of an employee is confidential information and for disclosure only on a need-to-know basis and only with the consent of the transgender employee.”

Employees are also advised that while their first point of contact to begin the process of transitioning at work might be their supervisor or local HR partner, if they’re nervous going to those people right away, they can contact any board member of the PRIDE network instead. From there, they’ll be provided with the connections they need to begin their transition. By sharing a few different options, Chevron is able to account for the varying comfort levels of different employees, which may encourage more to reach out and find the support they need.

4. Actionable steps transitioning employees can take to create a roadmap and navigate potential hurdles

While not every transgender person will transition, the Transgender at Chevron guidebook encourages those who do to create a workplace engagement plan. Employees, it explains, “can use the plan as a springboard for initial conversations, a place to document all of the steps in the workplace transition process, and an aid to create your transition support team.”

To build this roadmap, transitioning employees are advised to take steps like developing a list of stakeholders who need to be involved and creating a timeline of key milestones, such as legally changing their name (if they choose to do so). For people who aren’t sure where to start, the guidebook notes that the company already has robust change management programs and that “many of these tools can easily be adapted to manage a workplace gender transition.” The most recent version even includes an example workplace engagement plan and timeline to help transitioning employees and their managers build these resources together.

The document also offers some advice to help employees “expect the unexpected” and consider potential roadblocks in their plan. For example, if they change their name and/or appearance, they may need to get a fresh photo for their security badge, have their name updated in HR systems, and fill out new insurance paperwork. To help employees and managers brainstorm challenges like these, the guidebook advises them to think about what a new employee would need to do in their first week. It also recommends searching for the employee’s name on the company’s Intranet to account for every place it shows up that will need to be changed.

5. An answer to “the restroom question” 

Transgender-inclusive bathroom policies remain a highly debated issue, even at the level of government. Transgender at Chevron addresses this directly, noting that “restrooms are a mundane part of life, yet this issue seemingly causes more discussion than any other aspect of transitioning.”

To avoid uncertainty, the document states clearly that while all employees’ “emotional responses and privacy concerns” around “the restroom question” need to be handled with sensitivity, transitioning employees are permitted to use the facilities that correspond to their gender identity (their innate understanding of who they are, which for transgender individuals does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth).

However, the document also notes that single-occupancy or gender-neutral facilities can be used temporarily or on an ongoing basis where available. Today, Chevron has made gender-neutral restrooms available at its largest locations, which can help take the “restroom question” off the table altogether.

6. Tips for being a good ally and supportive coworker, manager, or supervisor

For employees who have never worked with (or, in some instances, even met) an “out” transgender person before, the news that a coworker is transitioning may leave them uncertain how to act. To help everyone at the company be as supportive and welcoming as possible, Transgender at Chevron offers some tips and guidance for being a good ally.

This starts with being “as open and honest as you would like your coworker to be with you.” The guidebook encourages employees to tell their transgender coworker if this is new to them and to “ask the ‘dumb’ questions, but not the inappropriate ones.”

Transgender employees are advised to “be prepared to spend some time educating people” — though as you develop resources for transgender inclusion at your company, be mindful that employees shouldn’t be expected to do all the work themselves. Having a document like Chevron’s that answers many top-of-mind questions can prevent transitioning employees from being inundated with the same queries over and over again during a period of their life that may already be emotionally and physically taxing.

The 2017 edition adds some guidance for supervisors around when and how to let an employee’s team know that they are transitioning. While the importance of respecting the employee’s privacy is emphasized, there are some things the team needs to know if they’re going to support their coworker. Since every team’s dynamic is different and every transgender employee will have a different level of comfort around this announcement, the guidebook suggests a few options, like the employee sending an email, an HR representative reading a statement written by the employee, or supervisors discussing it in one-on-one meetings with each team member.

The guidebook also stresses that employees should ask their transitioning coworker to be honest with them if they do or say something that makes the person uncomfortable, and that it’s OK to ask about their name and pronouns if they’re unsure. And to encourage welcoming and supportive behavior, Chevron includes a list of reasons to become an ally — from making a positive impact on a fellow employee’s life to becoming a better leader.

Final thoughts: Look at existing resources, build your own, and iterate

Existing resources like the Transgender @ Chevron guidebook and the Transgender Law Center’s Model Transgender Employment Policy are great places to start when you’re developing your own policies and resources for transgender employees. Review what’s out there, then work with LGBTQ+ organizations and experts, as well as your own employee resource groups, to build resources and policies that align with your company’s needs.

Once you have something you’re happy with, make sure your employees and candidates know where to find this information and who they should speak to if they have any questions or suggestions. Resources like these work best as living, breathing documents that evolve with the times and with your changing workforce, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you go.

Posted in: Diversity Hiring, Passive Candidate Recruiting

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