A strong culture of diversity and inclusion, bolstered by thorough anti-discrimination policies and action, can drum up support and advocacy for trans employees — even among their co-workers who are predisposed to prejudice, according to a University of Bath report.
The first part of the study, which focuses on non-trans workers, theorizes the relationship between perceived diversity and inclusion climate and social dominance orientation. In the experiment, researchers presented their cisgender participants with a scenario wherein a peer discloses their trans identity.
People with a strong social dominance orientation — in this case, supported social hierarchy with cisgender people at the top or had tendencies to exclude trans people — had negative relationships with allyship intentions, the report said. But having an inclusive workplace mitigated this negative relationship.
In other words: An employee's knee-jerk reactions due to prejudice are mitigated by a pro-DEI workplace. "When employees perceived they were working in a company or organization with a strong diversity and inclusion climate, they were less able to demonstrate their reticence about inclusion and were potentially more willing to learn about allyship," Dr. Luke Fletcher, one of the report's lead researchers, said in a press release.
Fletcher added that practical frameworks and leadership around a company's DEI approach are key in creating this kind of climate of allyship.
Allyship is a word that's tossed around a lot, but what does it really mean? "We mean explicit, active solidarities which listen and attend to the needs of trans workers. Ultimately, it is the demonstrable behaviours that matter and make a difference," Dr. Rosa Marvell, a professor at the University of Portsmouth's School of Education and Sociology, said in a press release. "Allyship needs to be more than a passive act or self-determined label."
Tokenization doesn't count. Fletcher said the research is complementary to work done by the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The royally chartered CIPD is among the leading U.K. organizations geared toward HR and L&D professionals. As of late, the organization has focused its research on the working lives of LGBTQ professionals.
This research showed the importance of companies understanding trans workers' lived experiences, and that organizations should "avoid allyship policies becoming token gestures or tick-box exercises," Fletcher added.
Regarding workplace strategies, a 2021 study from Bentley University Gloria Larson Center for Women and Business found that employees working amid cultures of strong allyship and inclusion were 50% less likely to leave their companies, 56% more likely to improve their performance and up to 167% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work, the report says.
This study's authors also cautioned against "performative allyship," which, in this instance, is described as educating about privilege and inequity without actually leveraging privileges to make change. In a prior interview with HR Dive, Tauhidah Shakir, chief diversity officer of Paylocity, similarly described the positive responses and impact of tangible trans inclusion over performative allyship.
Feedback may be the name of the game. Marvell and Fletcher urged companies to consult trans employees when creating policies or partnerships meant to be trans-inclusive. For example, a CIPD advisor noted that aspects of dress code as well as absence and family policies should be gender-neutral and approached through an inclusion lens.
"Facilitating allyship in a company or organization is not just a moral good that supports inclusion. It has a very strong psychological benefit for minority groups and helps them feel more engaged with their work, more loyal to their company, and more productive," Fletcher said. "Allyship is, essentially, a win-win for that person and their employer,But it has to be carefully considered and have an authentic, deep meaning to the organization."