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Why Disruptors Has Adopted a Transgender Policy

By Joanne Jacobs

When friend to Disruptors, Joan Westenberg, said she was developing an open source transgender policy for tech companies in Australia, there was not even a moment of hesitation from us. Of course we would adopt it, because inclusion is something we support as a basic human right, and because we knew the policy itself would be well-defined and resourced. We also know that an inclusive workplace is one that is more likely to be creative and innovative. More on that later, but let’s begin with Joan’s Transgender Policy.

There are perilously few open source policies in existence (that don’t explicitly pertain to the use open source software), but the few there are tend to come from the technology sphere. And the policies themselves mimic the experience of open source software development in that they are best written by those affected by the policy, and they consider the mechanisms and basis for enforcing that policy. Joan’s Transgender Policy fulfills these criteria, with her lived experience as well as the provision of examples of discrimination, and links to resources that articulate processes for enforcement. The policy is useful for us because it captures our values and set out two key promises we, as a company, are happy to commit to:

  1. We commit to making our workplace a safe place for transgender and non-binary people to work and to live as their authentic selves, without judgement, without discrimination and without limits.
  2. We reject any notion that transgender people are a burden on our team, or that transgender people should limit their existence for others’ comfort.

There’s more to each of these promises than I have recorded here, but I have included these lines because they raise the notion of safety and inclusion without discrimination. Embracing diversity does not mean tokenism. Compassion and workplace privileges must be equally accessible to all staff. It should not need to be said, but making such a statement in a policy is powerful, because it elevates a value system into an obligation. And in the wake of the Israel Folau sacking by Rugby Australia, and the argument over religious freedom versus contractual obligation, it is ever more important to be clear about what companies and their staff must prioritise in terms of workplace practice. To be clear, at Disruptors, we welcome employees regardless of religious belief system. But no employee has the right to use their beliefs as an excuse to discriminate, humiliate or cast down on their colleagues, clients or the community at large.

We also like the way Joan’s policy has laid out procedures for supporting transgender staff. From formal transition plans to pronouns and dress codes, this Transgender Policy provides a guide for all staff about how best to facilitate the needs of transgender employees. It’s as much a code of practice as it is an administrative instrument.

There’s another reason why we are happy to adopt this Transgender Policy and it’s about the relationship between innovation and a diverse workplace. It’s been observed for some time that businesses that have a more diverse employee base are more likely to succeed in their innovation efforts. And empirical research from BCG in Europe has backed that up; the relationship between diversity and innovation is positive and statistically significant. So as an innovation and disruption-readiness organisation, it makes good economic sense for us to do all we can to embrace all forms of diversity.

But we are also proud to be one of many firms who have already adopted Joan’s Transgender Policy. And we are happy to endorse it for other organisations who wish to be both inclusive and innovative.

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