This case was prepared by Bretton Fosbrook (Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Gender and the Economy) and Sarah Kaplan (Professor of Strategic Management and Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy).
This case study examines Amazon Studios’ Trans-Affirmative Action Program utilized on the set of the television series Transparent. The Trans-Affirmative Action Program aimed to hire, train, and support trans people at every level of the production—from producers and actors to writers and directors—showing the systemwide effort that must be undertaken to make workplace inclusion effective.
This case would be useful for those interested in or teaching courses in:
- Diversity and inclusion
- Transgender inclusion
- Human resources
- Media industry
- Organizational change
Responding to a rising tide of visibility and acceptance of trans and gender nonconforming people, organizations have begun to acknowledge the discrimination trans people face at work. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found the unemployment rate for transgender people to be three times higher than the general workforce in the United States, and four times higher for transgender people of color. For employed transgender people surveyed, researchers found more than three-quarters experienced workplace discrimination, everything from verbal harassment to sexual violence. Companies from IBM to Salesforce have been quick to respond to the calls for greater transgender inclusion by promoting their workplace inclusion practices, including non-discrimination policies, transition guidelines, washroom policies, and trans-inclusive medical benefits coverage.
While these efforts are a good way to begin improving the working conditions for trans and gender nonconforming employees already within an organization, there are many obstacles that continue to prevent transgender people from entering organizations. These obstacles are the result of historical inequalities due to discrimination including stigma and negative stereotypes about how ‘men’ and ‘women’ ought to look.
The acclaimed Amazon Studios television series Transparent is one workplace that has attempted to overcome the obstacles faced by transgender people that prevent them from being hired and thriving at work. As a model for transgender workplace inclusion, Transparent’s Trans-Affirmative Action Program differentiated itself by making significant efforts to address the structural barriers and discrimination trans and gender nonconforming people face while seeking to obtain and sustain safe and respectful employment.