Over 150 people packed Affirmations on June 21, for the first-ever LGBT Job Expo in the state. National companies and multicultural corporations including GM, Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, MetLife and Deloitte had recruiting experts on hand looking to hire the best and the brightest.
The day began with a training session for employers on the special employment challenges for transgender people. For prospective employees there was a resume review station staffed by the Ferndale Career Center. Center experts gave last minute advice and encouragement before sending people into the room full of recruiters. Out and Equal, a national organization was on hand providing resources for attendees, letting them know what their rights are and what challenges LGBT people face as they apply for jobs. In Michigan it is still legal to fire somebody just because they are gay or transgender.
“GM is an exciting place to work right now,” said Karen Engelman, a designer at GM who is part of the GM Plus group for LGBT employees. “The company attitude is very welcoming and inclusive and there is a lot of growth.” Engelman spoke to potential employees about positions currently available in the design, technical and administrative departments, and noted that for hourly production jobs people can apply through the Ferndale Career Center.
GM has been a longtime supporter of diversity, but some other participants were surprising. “We asked every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to be here today, and the U.S. Air Force was the only branch that came,” said Affirmations Executive Director Dave Garcia. “We’d liked to have seen more, but that says something doesn’t it, that the U.S. Air Force came to Affirmations to say they want to recruit from the gay community?”
USAF Staff Sergeant Michael Regina welcomed potential recruits with a smile. “The repealed DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,) so why not? Everyone should feel welcome to serve their country.” Regina pointed out that the Air Force has over 140 different job titles, and only 4 percent of enlisted individuals are flying planes. “We need mechanics, people for intelligence, and medical for some examples.”
Ben Conroy, a student at Macomb Community College, drove 45 minutes from Armada, hoping to find a job that would launch him into a career in law enforcement. One of the most interesting options to him was the FBI. Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigations Detroit office were on hand looking for potential agents. “We want to truly be in every community,” said Will Council who is an Investigative Operations Analyst for the Bureau. “We’re looking for Special Agents and for other staff,” Council said. “It’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to travel, and a great way to serve your country.” All applicants to the FBI were directed to the Bureau’s website http://www.fbijobs.com.
Bank of America was also taking applications. Senior Vice President and Consumer Market Manager Stacey Fabrie, representing the eastern Michigan market, has been with the company for fifteen years and out for the past five. She takes advantage of the networking groups at her company as a way to connect employees and make them feel welcome and safe. “We’ve got a women’s group, an LGBT group, Hispanic, Black Professional and an Armed Forces group,” she said. “Each group has an executive sponsor so we know management is listening to the needs of the employees. It’s always been a nice company to work for.” She also mentioned that Bank of America would be partnering with Ruth Ellis Center to do a five week financial literacy program training homeless, runaway and at-risk LGBT youth.
In addition to reaching a pool of talented LGBT job applicants, companies that attended the expo were given a one hour Transgender 101: What Every Recruiter Should Know training session. Taught by 40-year-old FTM Seth Carwyn of Port Huron, the class addressed the unique issues that might come up when interviewing and hiring.
“In the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn,” a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, there were 6,450 transgender identifying individuals surveyed. Ninety percent experienced harassment or mistreatment; 44 percent said they were passed over for a job; 23 percent were denied a promotion and 25 percent lost their jobs,” Carwyn said. “When transgender people find work with a company where they feel comfortable and they have medical coverage they tend to be extremely loyal.”
He explained terminology that one might encounter in the interview process, and went through what would be appropriate or inappropriate questions. Carwyn let employers know that they don’t have to be perfect. “We are all trained from the time we are little people, to pick up cues and assign gender. It’s natural and normal to want to use pronouns that match what those cues tell you,” he said. “If you make a mistake, a simple apology will do. We get people all the time who apologize profusely over and over, and it’s like, no really, that’s okay.”
Employers may notice that transgender job applicants may have a preferred name that varies from their legal name.
Of those surveyed by the NCTE, 40 percent did not have identification that matched their preferred name and/or gender. Carwyn suggested that human resources personnel in the room go back to their respective companies and ensure that applications and employee paperwork include a “preferred name” data field, and advised them that some applicants may use their legal name while others may use their preferred on things like job applications and paperwork.
“One thing that we hear a lot is: Is that your ‘real’ name? Sometimes we use the word ‘real’ when we mean the word ‘legal.” And it’s more appropriate to use the word ‘legal,’ since that is what you’re after,” Carwyn explained.
Affirmations provides other Transgender 101 trainings, including Transgender 101 for Volunteers hosted by Jessica Manko and Arlene Kish and LGBT 101 training for general audiences done by John Fitzgerald. New trainings are also in the works.