A new world is emerging around us as the corporate sector starts focusing on obliterating gender lines within its leadership ranks. Reason to celebrate the fact that organizations are becoming future-focused and truly equal opportunity employers? Not really. There is reason to worry.
On one hand, as organizations start doing that, yet another world is emerging which is frightening. Because nations are drawing these lines out to make the gender differences more and more prominent. President Trump announced a few days ago that he will ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. It elicited serious reactions from all quarters, but it did find supporters as well.
This is probably an example of the announcement itself being as appalling as the reasons shared for the same. As per his statement, the reasons are related to them causing “disruption” in the military and high medical costs. As the facts became more readily available, it was clear that the decision is a result of his bias against transgender individuals and had nothing to do with these reasons since these are not even supported by data. A research by Rand Corporation that was commissioned by Pentagon, shared that there were about 2,450 openly transgender service members in the military out of the total 1.3 million active duty members. That itself is a miniscule number and of those too, only 29 to 129 typically look for health care related to gender transition in a way that would impact their deploy-ability.
Imagine the magnitude of gender-based stereotyping that such bans are announced which disregard a person’s capability to serve in certain roles and base the decision entirely on their gender identity. Imagine how much we have regressed if we hide our biases by intentionally misquoting facts. Also imagine how unfair our world is becoming if a segment of capable individuals marginalized simply based on gender, are pushed out of key professions by one of the most powerful leaders of current times.
Gender stereotyping when it comes to assigning jobs, roles or responsibilities, is not a new or an unknown phenomenon. It happens frequently in organizations. It happens frequently at home. Many male leaders assume that women employees can’t perform certain roles and with-hold their promotions. Many men (and women) assume that some work at home is to be done by women alone and not men.
But, when it happens at a policy or regulation level, in one of the developed countries of the world, it is difficult to restrict the reaction to anger. When it happens at a time when the focus is to include the transgender community, provide them with dignified employment that respects their capability and create a diverse workplace, even in male-dominated segments like the military, it is shocking.
The disturbing part of all is the fact that such an announcement has found supporters. When a global elected leader talks about how individuals of a certain gender disrupt the working environment, our collective conscience suffers a blow. The ban has not been implemented as yet and given the outcry against it, it is likely that it might get implemented at all. But what we must evaluate is this is not just a perspective of one individual but the reflection of a society. And the same applies to us here in India.
We might not have announced a ban, but how many transgender individuals who are capable of serving are present in our military? Possibly none; This is because someone has quietly assumed and implemented the(ir) belief that only a man can perform some roles such as being deployed in the armed forces.
By Simran Oberoi
Simran Oberoi is an independent HR Consultant in Bangalore, with HR Advisory, Knowledge Development and Research expertise of over 13 years, in Rewards & Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Development, HR & Social Media. She has worked with consulting firms like Hay Group, Aon Hewitt and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the past, in India as well as Asia-Pacific leadership roles. Simran is also a keen baker – you can find her recipes at https://ovenderfulhealthybaking.wordpress.com/