Michelle Sheppard (LGBTI Jobs)

StarObserver may 2017


Experiencing struggles within employment as a trans woman played a large role in Michelle’s decision to establish LGBTI Jobs.

Coming from a 20-year strong corporate background she found that after ‘coming out’ as trans she wasn’t taken as seriously.

“People were coming out with rather discriminatory responses, and other companies I worked for were only bringing me in for tokenistic purposes.

“I remember one recruitment person telling me that in IT they could mainly place someone who was white, under 40, and male.

“They said for women it’s hard and as a trans woman I could basically forget it.

“But I thought, no, I’m not going to accept that.”

Michelle fittingly launched LGBTI Jobs live on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) last year.

The business helps organisations to build more LGBTI-inclusive workplaces where diversity is recognised and respected.

It also helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex jobseekers connect with organisations that are actively engaged in LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

Unlike a lot of other tokenistic endeavours some companies may undertake to tick the diversity box, Michelle’s business actively engages with clients to ensure LGBTI people are not only being hired, but are also free from the fear of discrimination.

“I get in touch with human resources directly so that I can train them to hire trans or gender non-conforming people,” she said.

“Some groups give out manuals and information and they’re stereo instructions – things like ‘that’s what gay is’ – people walk out more confused than when they went in.

“But when I head along and meet with people everyone’s really responsive.

“People will actually ask questions they’re concerned about, and I tell them to ask me any burning questions they may have so I can give them the rundown.”

Initiatives as simple as including gender neutral toilets and ensuring employees don’t misgender each other are what can make a major difference in the workplace.

And contrary to other LGBTI-inclusive initiatives that don’t include a review or follow-up process, LGBTI Jobs assures ongoing support where required.

“People are transitioning, people are coming out, people are open to these things, but the problem is that companies showing up on ‘inclusive’ lists aren’t conducting reviews or follow ups,” she said.

“I want to make sure we follow up – let’s help people transition, and in time really help them to hire a diverse training manager.

“Help them to develop something further.”

A lot of LGBTI jobseekers that come to Michelle and LGBTI Jobs have their own fears that stem from the discrimination they may have experienced in the past.

“They may have had trouble finding a job, or they may be worried about being misgendered,” she said.

“In the future I would love to see LGBTI Jobs as a way to run conferences and see organisations come together.

“I want to get a company that’s been completely vetted by trans women, and then the company will be able to post on our jobs board.

“We want the community to look at the jobs board and know it’s a vetted and trustworthy source of truth.

Outside of LGBTI Jobs Michelle has been an outspoken advocate for trans rights, with regular segments on community radio station JOY 94.9.

She was also shortlisted for the Broadcaster of the Year award at this year’s inaugural Australian LGBTI Awards and was listed on Lesbians on the Loose’s (LOTL) Power List 2016.

She believes inclusive and diverse workplaces are key to a business’ success.

“At the end of the day we have to leave our own personal things at the front door, but whether it’s religion, sexuality, or gender, we need a lot more training,” she said.

Article originally posted: http://www.starobserver.com.au/features/australia-lgbti-entrepreneurs/157929

© Star Observer 2017 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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