It’s not often that I get political in this space, but after Wednesday’s directive from the Justice Department that businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity, what I’m about to write feels both right and necessary.
Upswept Creative is now in its 7th year, and for the first few years, it was just me, working alone at a desk. Eventually, I was able to hire people to work with me, and start building what is now a 3-person team. I’ve always been happy to be able to offer jobs to people from underrepresented groups, but I don’t think I fully internalized how radical an act that was until Wednesday night.
In the time since my first employee hire, 1/3rd of the people I’ve hired have been trans or non-binary. Granted, a third of my very-small sample may not seem like much from a numbers perspective, but in terms of the effect it can have, it goes far beyond a small handful of people.
A job can change a life. It can mean having food in your mouth and a roof over your head, of course. But it can also mean opportunities to learn and grow, to hone expertise. It can be a chance to build a career that feeds your soul, and brings intrinsic rewards beyond just paying bills or buying a nice car. It can be a step towards becoming your best and most fully-realized self. It’s a chance that people of all gender identities deserve to have.
And, by choosing to not discriminate, we also have an opportunity to lead by example. Do we want to live in a world where everyone feels safe and welcome at work? Where women feel valued for their skills, where trans people feel at home and free to be themselves, where people of color feel respected? In our current political climate, it’s hard to know how we can begin to make this a reality.
But, as small business owners, we can begin to create that world. You and I may be doing that with, say, a small staff of 5, rather than a corporation of 500, but we have the opportunity to build safe spaces from the ground up. We can show other businesses how they can create better work environments. We can demonstrate through our hiring decisions and our treatment of our team that it is possible to build businesses on a foundation of empathy and equity.
As a small business owner whose work supports small businesses, I want to challenge you to take that step. Look at who you hire, consider why you’ve made those choices. Start making the changes in your business that will create safe work spaces for marginalized people. Are you interviewing a trans or non-binary person who’d be great at their job? Hire them.
And, to any trans, non-binary, and genderqueer folks who may be seeing this, please know: I see you, and I support you. I will hire you for your skills and your talent, and I will show respect for your expertise and your value as a human being. And everyone at Team Upswept will be proud to work alongside you.