By Angus Wu, Nathan Lee

A celebration of transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary individuals and their achievements, the annual Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 is a further opportunity for companies around the world to consider how they can best support the community and play an active role in combating discrimination against its members.

Many institutions are already steadfastly committed to protecting the rights of LBGTQ+ employees and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) more generally in the workplace. Trans and gender-diverse inclusion is a particularly complex topic, however, as individuals will have unique experiences when undergoing transitions, which can include changes to their name and physical appearance. Support for trans inclusion needs to be both flexible and contextualized to accommodate an individual’s specific needs and circumstances.


Defining Transition

Gender transition, which is the process of changing one's gender presentation or sex characteristics to match the individual’s internal sense of gender identity, can be broadly categorized into three types:  social, legal and medical. It is important to recognize that individuals may commit to just one or two types of transition – there is a misconception that trans and non-binary people must undergo medical transition or surgery for their gender identity to be valid. 

Social Transition

Social transition is a public affirmation by a transgender, gender non-confirming, or non-binary individual of their gender identity. This usually takes the form of changing their pronouns, using different names, changing their hairstyle and clothes, and changing the bathrooms they use. All trans, gender non-confirming, and non-binary people want access to social transition with a view to aligning their gender representation and their outward presentation. These individuals aim to be recognized and respected according to their identified gender, and to gain social acceptance from their friends and colleagues.

When transgender, gender non-conforming, or non-binary individuals undergo social transition, they may face challenges of being misgendered, or gendered incorrectly. For example, people may use the wrong pronouns and/or name when addressing them. This can escalate to discrimination if others intentionally fail to recognise the gender they identify with. They might face hostility or even legal issues by pursuing access to facilities or support in line with their current gender identity.

Legal Transition

Legal transition is when a transgender or non-binary person changes their name and gender markers on legal documents and records, including their driver’s license, bank statements, educational transcripts or other documentation. While its implications may vary across countries, legal recognition and protection can reduce the discrimination trans, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary people often face and give them access to healthcare and human rights. 

While all transgender and many non-binary people want access to this, laws in some countries prohibit name and gender marker changes. Even where a change of gender marker is permitted, it may require an individual to undergo ‘full sex reassignment’ surgery. These factors may lead to mismatched documents, creating confusion.

Medical Transition

Medical transition enables transgender or non-binary individuals to align their physical characteristics with their gender identity. It may be in the form of taking hormones or undergoing surgery. While individuals choose to medically transition, not all individuals do. This may be due to an individual’s circumstances, preferences and/or access to healthcare services.

Some countries will only offer access to medical transition if an individual meets certain diagnostic criteria. For example, some require an individual to wait one year before starting hormone therapy, and another year on hormones prior to any surgery. Other countries may give free access to medical procedures, but costs may then become a barrier.


Being an ally

As mentioned above, the experience of each transgender and gender non-conforming individual is unique. While by no means an exhaustive list, below we set out recommendations to help companies and colleagues support transgender and non-binary employees. 

Corporate Policy

The anchor ensuring an environment that is equitable to all employees, inclusive cultural and anti-discrimination policies boost trans-employees’ sense of belonging and psychological safety. Leaders can publicly advocate and endorse trans initiatives to demonstrate their support and normalize trans inclusion.

Beware a ‘one size fits all’ inclusivity policy. For companies which operate in multiple locations, national jurisdictions, cultural norms, and customs must be acknowledged, so localization is vital.

Provide trans-inclusive benefits. Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer trans inclusive healthcare benefits1, including paid leave for cosmetic or medical procedures, wardrobe reimbursement, coverage of other surgical transition costs (e.g. gender affirming surgery, hair removal/transplant, voice modification, facial restructuring surgery, etc.).

Trans education and resources. Not all colleagues are aware of issues the transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary community may face. Up-to-date training and learning & development resources will allow opportunities for employees to self-educate on the subject of trans identities and experiences. Trans colleagues sharing their experience at work can also be powerful, but it is important to recognize that not all individuals are comfortable being publicly positioned as trans advocates.

Provide support and points of contact for trans colleagues to discuss their concerns. Transitioning at work can be complicated as individuals seek to reaffirm their new identity while also navigating legal and medical systems. A point of contact to advise and provide support can help smooth these journeys, particularly around how to reintroduce themselves to colleagues, interact with departments and teams, and plan medical leave.

Be sensitive regarding professional qualifications and identity documents. Not all transgender or non-binary individuals have access to legal transition. Businesses should take care to ensure trans individual’s current identity is properly reflected, and sensitively handle situations where conflicts or issues arise over legal documents.

Consult for an effective DEI structure and best practices. Not all companies possess the relevant experience in building an effective DEI organisational structure and/or implementing best practices. External experts can be brought in to address these opportunities.


Managers are in a powerful position when it comes to influencing their teams, setting the tone and modelling how team members respond to a colleague’s transition.

Proactively support trans team members, particularly with respect to their privacy. By gaining an understanding of their transition timing and expected time out of the office, managers can better ensure the necessary support and backup is in place. At the same time, there needs to be very clear alignment as to if and when the wider team is made aware of a colleague’s transition, and how this should be communicated.

Respect and support trans colleagues’ medical needs. A medical transition will typically involve many appointments and surgical leaves, and these should be treated with the same gravity and respect as any other medical procedure or treatment programme. Managers should ensure their team member is comfortable discussing any period of leave or other necessary accommodations, such as working from home.

Be a facilitator during their transition. Managers can take steps to understand and help facilitate changes around company log-ins, identity cards, bathroom access and HR records to ensure alignment of a colleague’s new identity.

Peers and other colleagues

Peers and other members of the organization may be unsure about how they should interact with their trans colleague.  

Respect trans individuals’ chosen names and pronouns. As colleagues, we should take care to respect and adopt a trans or non-binary individual’s chosen name and pronouns, and ensure they are not misgendered or addressed by the wrong name. If we accidentally get it wrong, apologize, correct our mistake, and move on.

Self-educate on trans identities. We should all be open minded to different presentations and avoid using the wrong terminologies to describe them. By reading up on appropriate language, we can ensure we refer to our trans colleagues with due respect.

Keep it professional. Some trans people are comfortable talking about their gender identity and transition, while others are not. Conversations about transition and trans-related issues should always respect the individual’s personal boundaries. 

Empathy and flexibility are key

The key to a successful trans inclusive culture is building a strong sense of belonging and psychological safety. A workplace culture that embraces flexibility, accommodates the needs of the individual, and provides unequivocal support and allyship will elevate both the organization and the lives of its employees.

At Capco, we are committed to our Anti-Discrimination Policy and Be Yourself at Work (#BYAW). We have a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of discrimination, unfair behavior, or harassment. We reinforce our culture of self-expression in the workplace, as we believe diversity powers innovation. Through our affinity groups, including Pride@Capco, we support and promote awareness and inclusion around gender, race, ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity, or other shared background.

We also collaborate externally with our DEI partners, such as myGwork, to enhance our inclusion practices via trainings, talks and panel discussions. For six consecutive years, we have earned a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, and our ongoing efforts around DEI and workplace inclusion has been recognized worldwide.