Just Read: Beyond stories, first ever resume testing study of employment discrimination against transgender people

Way back when, people used to say, “come to work, leave your bias at home.” From multiple studies performed since the 20th Century ended, we now know that doesn’t work. It’s really “come to work, eliminate your bias, make your organization, community, the world a better and more successful place.”

Coming from Washington, DC’s Office of Human Rights (@DCHumanRights) is this first-of-its-kind-ever study of resume testing of discrimination based on gender identity. The study quantified the discrimination rate against transgender people by measuring employer responses to carefully crafted resumes attributed to human beings who either had evidence of gender non-conformity or not.

I reviewed the report and I’m impressed with the methodology, which appears sound to my eyes. Using best practices, the team created resumes using specific guidelines around qualifications (per previous research the applicants to be perceived as transgender were more qualified), sent them in pairs, and measured the response:

As this report will show, employers in the District frequently offered interviews to less-qualified applicants perceived as cisgender over better-qualified applicants perceived as transgender

The number calculated is 48% of employers tested who discriminated by this standard. This behavior is against the law in Washington, DC.

As such, it says on the OHR’s web site:

An anonymized review of testing results was completed by the OHR Director in October 2015, and enforcement actions will be initiated against employers in five tests in November 2015.

There is really a lot of good in this:

  • Resume testing requires rigor and at the same time it is not a costly screen for discrimination compared to other methods.
  • When done correctly it can be objective and quantifiable
  • It’s accessible to everyone, so employers can (and should) test themselves. The recipe is clearly laid out in the report.
  • Given that reality, the goal is not to initiate enforcement actions, it is to eliminate bias, so that everyone in a community can achieve their life goals

….and by the way, studies have also shown that more diverse workplaces also generate greater profits/margins than ones that are less, and community measured “happiness” is higher in more diverse places.

To the point of the goal not being enforcement, OHR is running a #BeatBias Resolution Challenge | ohr with 8 steps that a person can follow to begin the journey of not just leaving bias at home, throwing it away altogether.

This is the next frontier of LGBTQ health – beyond health care and into healthy lives. Thanks, once again, Washington, DC, for being the national leader!

As always comments welcomed…

Ted Eytan, MD