After leading the way in supporting transgender employees, Accenture is continuing to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion offerings to meet workers’ evolving needs.
In 2011, the professional services company was one of the first employers in Canada to support transgender employees through its benefits offerings. “At the time of [the benefit’s] inception, Accenture worked closely with the insurance community [and] the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to develop a fulsome and customizable program for transitioning employees,” says Suehlan Yu, chief human resources officer at Accenture Canada.
The benefit is designed to cover everything involved in the transition process, covering all costs — with no set maximum — that aren’t covered by public health care, including surgical procedures, hormone therapy and mental-health counselling.
Over the past decade, Accenture has simplified the process by easing the number of documents required and removing its previous requirement that the user be at least age 18.
“We’re always looking to the future and wanting to ensure an inclusive environment for our LGBTQ2S+ employees across Canada and the globe as part of our [DEI strategy],” says Yu. “All our transgender employees throughout Canada and the U.S. have access to a nearly all-inclusive suite of health benefits designed to enable them to integrate well into the workforce, as well as society. We’ve evolved quite a bit and we’re trying to take a holistic approach as much as we can.”
Employees are increasingly asking employers about gender affirmation coverage when applying for new jobs, says Farzeen Mawji, national practice leader in inclusion and diversity at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., noting benefits providers are responding by increasing their coverage options for gender affirmation procedures and expanding the range of included procedures and treatments.
“Benefits providers are now taking the time to research and speak to people from diverse communities to learn how best to serve them, rather than making assumptions. In hearing directly from the people they’re trying to serve, it becomes much more clear how important this coverage is in relation to truly affirming an individual’s gender identity and how their journeys aren’t complete without it.”
Through a DEI lens
Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything Accenture does, so the company makes sure to look at programs and offerings through a DEI lens.
“Recently, during our procurement process for benefits vendors, we requested detailed information from the vendors as to how their programs had modernized to be more inclusive and to meet the needs of a diverse workforce,” says Yu.
When group benefits are developed and evaluated through a DEI lens, the whole company benefits, says Mawji. When employers provide a wide range of coverage options, as well as diverse practitioners and providers, it increases the likelihood that people from all backgrounds will find the coverage to suit their needs.
“We often find, when increasing inclusion, what supports one community tends to support many others as well, leading to greater overall support in the workplace.”
And as the lines between people’s professional and personal lives continue to blur, DEI has changed from being a ‘nice to have’ to a non-negotiable consideration for employers, he adds. “When people are able to bring their authentic selves into everything they do, it frees up the energy they would have used on [worrying] or hiding parts of themselves, which leads to greater engagement and increased productivity.”
Accenture is also ensuring it takes a much broader view of DEI, starting at the top of the organization.
“This year, we’re having every member of a Canadian executive committee define a personal [DEI] priority and share it with all of our employees,” says Yu. “And we’ve encouraged all of our employees in Canada to have a personal priority [related to DEI]. It’s driven top down, for sure, but it has to involve everyone in the organization.”
Through its 2025 internal workforce representation goals, it’s also on the path to achieve full workforce and leadership representation across nine diversity dimensions. And the company runs a mentorship program for BIPOC talent, which provides mentoring and coaching.
“We’re also working towards a progressive aboriginal relations certification through the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, as well as building a customized Indigenous learning experience focused on history and reconciliation, which will be rolled out to employees in Canada this fiscal year,” says Yu.
As well, Accenture offers its global workforce a LGBTQ2S+ leadership training course, which provides employees with the information, tools and support they need to continue to build their careers and be role models for other LGBTQ2S+ people.
“One of our leadership members, AJ Fernandez Rivera, is an out and proud trans woman,” says Yu. “She is a passionate advocate of [DEI] within Accenture and she openly addresses barriers to thriving in the technology sector. The professional impact and success of leaders such as AJ serve as a reminder for organizations that the more you enable people to bring their true selves [to work], the better [it is for the entire company].”
For Mawji, learning from diverse communities and increasing access to diverse providers is critical in the evolution of workplace DEI programs. “People feel more comfortable speaking about their personal concerns with practitioners who can understand their own experiences, knowing they won’t be discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable trying to explain their needs to someone who can’t relate.”
Sadie Janes is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.