I came out as transgender while at Salesforce. The company helped me tell my team, find health benefits, and even get a new wardrobe — here's what others can learn from my experience.
- August Scott, 43, is the manager of physical-security technology at Salesforce.
- Her company has guidelines and support resources for people transitioning and trains employees.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with August Scott, the 43-year-old manager of physical-security technology at Salesforce, who lives in Houston, Texas. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
For 27 years, I lived three separate lives: one as a husband, father, and son; one as a male IT-security professional; and one as August Scott.
One day in October, something clicked, and I decided it was time to start living my life as the real, unfiltered me. No more denial, no more covering, no more hiding — I was ready to come out.
Today, I'm proud to live one life as a mother, daughter, friend, and IT-security professional.
As many people in the LGBTQ community know, coming out doesn't just happen once
It's an ongoing process that takes time, depending on the communities you're part of. In December of last year, I came out to my family and friends, merging two of my separate lives. And by the new year, I was ready to come out professionally.
At Salesforce, where I work, we have a self-service app called "Concierge" to help employees find what they need quickly. I didn't know where to start my journey, so I went into Concierge and started typing "gender transition." I only got as far as typing the word "gender," and Concierge suggested an article titled "Gender Transition Guidelines." The article laid out guidance for employees and teams during a gender transition. From there, I was prompted to log a ticket with part of our HR organization called the employee-relations team, which would partner with me throughout my journey.
Together, we assembled a "Transition Project Plan" that outlined all of the necessary steps and support needed for me to transition at work, including telling my leadership chain, coming out to my team, and changing my name and pronouns in our systems. I led the plan, selected the dates to tell my boss and team, and for the first time, I felt in control of my life and future.
I also took advantage of some of Salesforce's gender-inclusive benefits. Through Lyra Health, for example, I found a therapist who specializes in gender-transition care, a new LGBTQ-supportive primary-care physician, and a vocal coach. Instead of having to make calls to potential providers to ask about the LGBTQ policies and experience — outing myself to strangers over and over — they handled that for me, which was a huge relief.
I also bought a new wardrobe with the help of the $500 reimbursement available to me. The emotional and financial support offered by the company not only supported me through the process, but encouraged me to realize my full potential and lifelong dream.
The support also extended to my colleagues
The company provides a group training called "Transgender 101" for the team of a transitioning employee to help educate them on what transitioning is — and is not — along with the do's and don'ts of how to support someone along their journey. The training covers everything from what gender identity is and the importance of pronouns to how to be a supportive colleague and ally.
For me, the most valuable thing about "Transgender 101" is that it removes the burden of having the transitioning employee educate their teams on the basics of being transgender. Too often, companies place the burden on the transitioning person to educate their colleagues and answer questions that are often uncomfortable or misinformed. That's a heavy emotional toll on top of transitioning itself, and I was grateful for this type of training.
Going through this journey made me realize how fortunate I am to have an employer that provides many resources and guidance for transitioning
Very few people in my community have the same support, if any at all.
This is not just important for employees' individual benefit, either — it's beneficial for businesses to empower employees to be their authentic selves. It takes a lot of brain space to constantly cover, always making sure you're not accidentally revealing your true identity in conversations with colleagues.
Today, I bring my best self to work every day, focusing on the job at hand, not on whether I'm outing myself. Based on my experience, here's what every employer can do to encourage employees — especially those in the LGBTQ community — to be their authentic selves at work:
1. Listen to your employees and provide opportunities for discussion: If we're going to address barriers in a meaningful way, companies need to start with understanding the unique needs and experiences of the transgender and gender-nonbinary community. At Salesforce, we have Outforce, our LGBTQ employee-resource group, which meets regularly with leadership to share LGBTQ community needs, issues, and accolades. We also have a private transgender and gender-nonbinary Slack channel so the community has a safe space to network and build community.
2. Champion inclusive benefits and policies: Companies have a powerful opportunity to support this community in places where the world has typically fallen short — including broadening benefit policies and healthcare coverage.
3. Focus on representation: In today's hyper-competitive talent market, I hope to see more targeted hiring initiatives focused on the transgender and gender-nonbinary community. A great example is Salesforce's latest representation goal of reaching a workforce of 40% women-identifying and nonbinary employees in four years. When talking about gender diversity in the workplace, it's critical to recognize all genders.
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