BOSTON — As the country and Commonwealth engage in a critical dialogue over equality, safety, and dignity in the workplace, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth recently issued formal guidance to all state agencies on steps that should be taken to recognize gender identity diversity and protect the wellbeing of gender minorities. The Commission publishes annual recommendations with specific advice for individual agencies, but its issuance of universal guidance of this nature is a rare and important event in its 25-year history.
Specifically, the Commission has advised state agencies to take three steps towards creating a more inclusive and safe workplace for all: instructing employees to share their preferred pronouns in places such as email signatures and business cards; encouraging employees to begin meetings with introductions that include preferred pronouns; and sharing this guidance with other entities that they fund or hire for services, be their nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies.
“The adoption of these relatively small changes can have a huge payoff,” explained Michel Anteby, Chair of the Commission. “I cannot imagine a faster and better way to ensure that all members of the Commonwealth feel immediately included than by making visible the gender pronouns we prefer using.”
Agencies have a proactive responsibility to address discrimination not only among their own workforce but among outside entities with whom they contract under Executive Order No. 526 of 2011. However, to date, few guidelines have been issued on how this can be done for employees and clients who may face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity. The Commission had received various requests from liaisons in state offices for guidance on gender identity diversity in the workplace, including specifically on updating email signatures to promote inclusivity and safety.
The guidance comes at a point in which transgender individuals in Massachusetts face staggering disparities. The National Center for Transgender Equality recently published a state-specific report based on its national 2015 survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, and found that 22% of transgender people in Massachusetts had been fired or denied a promotion or job because of their gender identity; additionally, 23% had experienced another form of mistreatment at work. It is precisely this type of disadvantage that Executive Order No. 526 is designed to combat.
“This is key not only for employees of state agencies, who deserve to be referred to by their preferred gender pronouns, but also for clients to feel they are welcome and respected,” said Corey Prachniak-Rincón, Director of the Commission. “Transgender clients will feel more comfortable seeing that an agency is culturally competent, and other clients will know how their agency employees want to be referred. It is a simple step, but it is win-win, both for employees and for those seeking services.”
The full document, including an impact statement and supporting research, is available at www.mass.gov/special-guidance-for-state-agencies.
The Commission on LGBTQ Youth is established by law as an independent state agency to recommend and advocate to all branches of state government effective policies, programs and resources for LGBTQ youth to thrive. Founded in 1992 as the first body of its kind in the nation, the Commission has been advocating for LGBTQ youth wellbeing in and out of school for 25 years.
[From a News Release]