Remedying workplace gender inequality continues to be a pressing issue for organizations. Companies are taking bold actions to address gendered gaps in wages and workplace promotions like boardroom gender quotas and targeted recruiting. However, current efforts focus almost exclusively on the challenges cisgender (meaning, individuals who identify with the biological sex assigned at birth) women face. This research brief provides an overview of the academic research on the economic and workplaces experiences of trans and nonbinary people, identifying the gaps and topics where more research is needed.

Current gender equality efforts often neglect the experiences of the estimated 1.5 million adults in the United States and Canada who identify as transgender.

This matters because it means that an estimated 1.5 million adults in the United States and Canada who identify as trans (meaning, individuals who may not exclusively identify with the biological sex assigned at birth) are neglected.[1] This neglect impacts the effectiveness of everything from data on the gender pay gap to employment equity initiatives. Research continues to show that trans and nonbinary (meaning, individuals who do not identify exclusively as either a man or woman) people face structural barriers, biases, and discrimination at work because of their gender identity and expression, barriers that are more extreme for racialized and gender non-conforming individuals.[2] Nonetheless, the majority of research on gender inequality at work continues examine inequalities between cisgender men and women.

Demographics are changing, and so are societal views about gender.

Researchers estimate as many as 12 percent of millennials, who now comprise more than 35 percent of the United States workforce, identify as trans or nonbinary, more than double those from Generation X.[3] A 2019 Pew Research study found those between the ages of 13 and 21 to be more familiar and accepting of gender diversity. They found 35 percent of those surveyed between 13 and 21 knew someone who used gender-neutral pronouns, and 59 percent believed forms and documents should provide gender options beyond “male” and “female.”[4] Organizations should begin thinking beyond the binary not only to support their current employees but also to prepare for the future.

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