How to Welcome Transgender and Nonbinary Applicants Into Your Organization | Part 1

An illustration of a resume, cup of pens, a nonbinary flag, and a mug with the gender nonconforming sign.

Many of us know how important it is to build a diverse workforce within the social-impact sector; a staff made up of people with different identities and backgrounds ensures that a variety of perspectives are informing our decisions, helping us to connect even more with the communities we serve.

A core part of doing this work is recognizing the harmful effects that biases have on job applicants—and making sure we correct any internal missteps.

According to a report published by, hiring managers are less likely to contact candidates who are nonbinary, or those who list they/them pronouns on application materials, which has contributed to greater economic insecurity for LGBTQ+ workers. To address this issue and ensure the social-impact sector is supportive of transgender and nonbinary (TGNC) people, we have to “do the work,” as they say, and remove bias from our processes and policies.

We spoke with human resource experts from Lambda Legal to inform our two-part blog series on how to welcome the TGNC community into your workforce. While hiring professionals may find this information most applicable, we hope it serves as a useful resource for anyone looking to contribute to an inclusive culture.

Here in Part 1, we dive into how you can first ensure your organization is supportive of current and future LGBTQ+ employees.

Audit your organization’s current policies

Taking a step back to analyze your organization’s current policies can reveal whether there are outdated processes getting in the way of an inclusive environment. One way to approach this work is by inviting current staff to share what works (or doesn’t work) for them.

“It is important to build a culture that encourages and supports all individuals—candidates and employees alike—so employees feel able to bring their true and authentic selves to the office,” says Crystal Costello, Chief of People & Culture at Lambda Legal. “This is something you can always be working on to make sure your values are represented across the organization.”

Crystal shares a few places to start your review process below; they also point out that smaller organizations without a dedicated human resources department can customize templates or develop checklists to ensure names and pronouns are correct on all resources:

  • Incorporate gender-neutral pronouns to resources. Staff handbooks and office reference guides should have an equal representation of gender-neutral pronouns to describe situations and policies. If you find examples of arbitrary gender roles or stereotypes mentioned in these resources, remove them.
  • Share pronouns widely and regularly. While including pronouns in staff email signatures is great, there is more that can be done on this front. Make sure employees can self-report pronouns wherever their names are stated or listed; this can include on Slack, in meetings, and on your website.
  • Provide gender-neutral spaces. Ensuring there are gender-neutral spaces for staff members—like bathrooms and changing rooms—will ensure everyone is comfortable being at the office.
  • Reevaluate your benefits. If your organization offers workplace benefits like paid parental leave, family-building assistance, and bereavement leave, gather feedback from staff about amending your current offerings or adding new ones, such as gender-affirming medical support.
  • Review your dress code. Your organization may enforce a formal dress code for staff, particularly if you operate in a more conservative or legal environment like Lambda Legal. Crystal shares that nonprofits can still respect people’s identities in these situations by removing gender normative styles of dress, such as that men wear pants suits and women wear skirts or dresses. It’s also important to make sure that your dress code does not discriminate against people who wear natural hairstyles or have tattoos.  
  • Build out procedures to support gender transition at work. Your organization may not currently have TGNC employees, but setting up policies to navigate gender transition at work will show staff members that the office supports them. You might organize workplace seminars or training sessions, as well as create a checklist to ensure name and pronoun updates are managed with grace.

If you’re a one-person HR team, would like to share feedback with your HR department, or just want to interact with co-workers in a more consciously-equitable way, we recommend checking out The Management Center’s templates and resources relating to culture and relationships, investing in people, and equity and inclusion.

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Share your values with the world

Shane Smoore, Recruiter at Lambda Legal, says that maintaining transparency is an important part of his recruitment efforts. Once you’ve started to show people that your organization listens to and supports staff from diverse backgrounds, it’s important to share your values with the world so future employees know how you operate.

“Maintaining transparency allows me to actively share our values with a candidate. If they ask what we do to support trans and nonbinary employees, I’m able to specifically name our policies. This also shows candidates that their identities will always be affirmed by me and anyone else who is part of the hiring process,” Shane adds. 

Mirroring your values externally may include sharing your benefits package on your website or letting supporters know how you’re marking important dates in LGBTQ+ history. Your organization may also decide to take action on relevant LGBTQ+ issues and share resources for how supporters can get involved.

Make sure that whatever you do, you’re approaching the process with honesty and respect; that way, applicants from the TGNC community will know your organization is truly doing the work to improve its culture from the inside out.


Check out Part 2 of this blog post series, where Crystal and Shane provide insight on how your workplace can add to its application and interview process to support the TGNC community.