Supports for transgender employees inspires loyalty
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Microsoft Corp. has been nothing less than fully supportive of their transgender employees. I joined the company in 2005 as part of an acquisition, and I have had a very positive experience that I wouldn't trade for anything else. Microsoft knows that delivering high-quality products around the globe takes a diverse workforce. Microsoft values diversity and provides thorough training programs for both leadership and employees to ensure a high standard of fairness for everyone. When I came on board, they already had an explicit transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy. And, in the areas where some of their policies were not yet inclusive, they've been receptive and quick to make them better.
When I joined, being transgender was not the most interesting thing about me. It represents one small aspect of who I am, and the reason I go to work every day is to do the best job I can. That being said, there were some ways in which being transgender negatively impacted me. Our insurance benefits were not yet transgender-inclusive, so I struggled accessing the same resources as everyone else.
I decided to join the board of an employee resource group (ERG) called GLEAM and worked with executive leadership to research the costs associated with changing our benefits to be fully inclusive. The reaction from the leadership was immediately clear: This is important, and we can't see any reason why we wouldn't want to provide this to our employees. They were incredibly receptive, and although it took two years to implement, we now have fully transgender-inclusive health insurance policies in place — a huge victory and in advance of most Fortune 500 companies.
Moreover, Microsoft ensures that our small but supportive transgender community has opportunities to come together. While I am the only transgender person on my campus here in Boston, I regularly communicate with other transgender employees via e-mail. Our ERG meets in person at least once a year. We talk about everything from living life as a transgender person to encountering issues in the workplace. Microsoft provides legal representation that advises us and acts as advocates should a challenge arise.
Microsoft was also a pioneer in adopting inclusive policies long before they were required by the Corporate Equality Index (a project by the Human Rights Campaign that measures the LGBT-friendliness of companies). Doing so proactively was an important show of commitment to its LGBT employees.
When a company as powerful as Microsoft speaks out and takes action like signing onto amicus briefs in support of fairness and equality for LGBT people, it tells me they value me and have respect for who I am as a person. When my company respects me and treats me with dignity, I want to do great things for them. Microsoft allows me to bring my whole self and the best self I can be to my job.
Massachusetts is set to become the next state to provide transgender-inclusive protections in all areas of life. It's incredible to think it took us this long, but legislators are on the right side of history. And I'm proud to say my company was way ahead of the curve from the beginning.
Dana Zircher lives in Cambridge and works as a principal software engineer at Microsoft.