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How to Empower Transgender People in the Workplace

August 15, 2020

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After several years of employment with Astellas US Technologies, Ellis Kiper recently decided to openly announce his transition. Today, Ellis generously shares this experience with WORK180 and reveals how companies can help LGBTQI+ employees feel safe, secure, and supported in the workplace. Or as Ellis wonderfully words it, how they can help people present, contribute, and be their whole self.

Ellis Kiper, Project Coordinator – Astellas US Technologies, Inc.

1. As someone from the LGBTQI+ community, what would make you feel more comfortable to be open in the workplace and what could your employer do to make you feel safe to do so?

Seeking out and encouraging diversity of thought to help eliminate groupthink.

Groupthink is a fundamental issue in business, therefore by helping to manage it, we can foster new insights and enable diverse and innovative problem-solving. Since my recent decision to announce my transition openly at Astellas, I’ve noticed that many colleagues and managers give more value to my ideas and thoughts on business practices. I owe much of this positive change to Astellas’ established policies and practices that fully support diversity and inclusion.

2. Tell us about a time when you felt truly supported and/or included in your workplace

In all honesty, all my life I’ve had to fight to be the real me, my whole self. Since childhood, I’ve learned and discovered when I break things down into day-to-day actions, it opens my eyes to the repeatable behaviors that affect, influence and mold the culture I live and work in.

Astellas has provided more than just an income, it’s provided a trusting and supportive family that has allowed me to stand strong at work and everywhere in life, with my head held high.

3. When looking for a job, do you look at what companies are doing to support LGBTQ+ employees before you apply and if so, does this impact your decision to apply for a job?

There are many red flags I’ve looked for over the years. I always research potential employers’ diversity statements in my job search. In addition, during interviews I listen for the hiring manager to ask, “do you think our culture is right for you and you will be comfortable here?,” as opposed to asking whether I feel that I will “fit in”. As diversity and inclusion progress continues, I feel companies are getting more focused on being respectfully inclusive.

4. What does your employer have in place to support LGBTQI+ employees in the workplace?

Astellas sponsors TAO (Together As One), our LGBTQI+ Employee Resource Group, whose mission is to provide support, advocacy, networking opportunities, external outreach and educational resources to the broader organization. Astellas also actively helps to attract, retain and develop LGBTQI+ employees and raises awareness within the company about the LGBTQI+ community to increase Ally engagement.

“The company encourages Allyship with a program that specifically promotes Allies for LGBTQI+ employees. Allyship and resources for Allies figured prominently during our recent African American EIG Forum We Are One: Solidarity with Black Employees and Beyond and will continue to be a major component of future Diversity Dialogue Series forums. Astellas advocates for other marginalized groups through several other Employee Impact Groups, including the African American, Asian, Abilities, Women, Military and Hispanic EIGs.”

Emulating industry best practices, the EIGs are key partners in the development and implementation of the company’s overall Diversity & Inclusion strategy. Each group is supported by executive sponsors from the highest echelon of leadership along with a cross-functional D&I Governance Council.

From a benefits and talent perspective, the company values equal opportunities for advancement and development regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression and provides equal benefits to same- and opposite-sex partners or spouses.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

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