June is Pride Month, a fitting time for organizations like Partners HealthCare to assess our own culture when it comes to diversity and inclusion. As we mark the first anniversary of our official gender and inclusion policy and toolkit, launched during last year’s Pride Month, we’re taking stock of the progress we’ve made and steps that can still be taken to make Partners the welcoming community we aspire to be.
The development of our gender identity policy was pioneering; today, Partners is among the few medical institutions that has one. In 2016, a passionate group of employee leaders from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) LGBT Employee Resource Group, Brigham Health LGBT & Allies Employee Resource Groups, and Partners Corporate—including employee assistance consultants and attorneys—approached the Partners Diversity and Inclusion Office and Human Resources Department. Their shared goal: to develop a policy that would direct the institution’s resources on issues of gender identity, while making Partners more inclusive overall.
“I got involved with the creation of this policy in my role as Chair of Brigham Health LGBT Employee Resource Group (ERG),” notes Pothik Chattergee, who is also the director of strategic planning & business development at Brigham and Women’s Physicians Organization. “I often heard firsthand about the challenges of changing gender at work, from logistical issues like ID badges and email to bigger issues like lack of awareness, prejudice, and discrimination from colleagues and management.”
The policy’s creation was itself inclusive, incorporating insights from a wide range of employees and advisors to ensure that it thoughtfully adhered to state and federal law. Participants say that process was enlightening. “It opened my own eyes to the personal, emotional, social challenges, and logistical hurdles faced by my transgender colleagues,” says Chattergee. “I firmly believe education is key to raising acceptance and awareness.”
When launched, the final policy covered everything from privacy to practical issues such as restroom and locker room use. A companion toolkit and self-instructed educational experience provides a roadmap for transitioning and transitioned individuals and their colleagues, and helps them manage relationships both professional and personal. Advocates say these guideposts are invaluable. “It helps employees, their managers, and their co-workers create an environment where every member of the team is seen and validated and affirmed, and where people are able to bring their whole selves to work—and therefore are able to help enact the incredible change Partners is known for,” says Garrett Garborcauskas, currently of the Broad Institute and previously of MGH.
Support from leadership, notes Partners Corporate Employee Assistance Consultant Melinda Strauss, has been critical as these policies and resources are implemented. “The most satisfying part of this effort was getting to know people across Partners, and reaching consensus so gracefully,” she says. “Support from top leadership on down continues to be affirming and gratifying.”
Though the policy has helped advance the Partners organization’s position on the Human Rights Campaign Equality Index while contributing to an environment of inclusiveness and support for all employees, the consensus is that there always more work to be done. “I would love for all of Partners to be on the cutting edge of helping transgender employees, patients, and visitors to feel safe, supported, and cared for and about,” says Joshua Abrams, Partners senior attorney and head of the Patient Care legal group. “I was proud to help develop this policy, and am equally proud to be working for an organization that values all of its community members in a truly forward-thinking way.”
Read more about the Partners Office of Diversity and Inclusion here.