"In the past five years, it is the first time I’ve heard companies talk about inclusion of transgender individuals."
“This was the opportunity to start my career I never knew if I would have.”
These words are from an apprentice who completed one of our job training programs for young transgender people in Latin America. More than a career opportunity, the program provided a chance for the apprentice to come to work for the first time as himself – a trans man.
“Though I was already looking for a job, I had never had the courage of being presented as a man, as myself,” he said.
For many trans people living in Latin America, discrimination has devastating ripple effects. For starters, accessing safe, supportive employment or education is difficult. Cut off from formal education or employment and facing social exclusion, trans people are at much greater risk of poverty and face a much shorter life expectancy than the general population. To promote social inclusion through work, GLAD, our LGBTQ+ and ally employee resource group, launched groundbreaking apprenticeship programs for young trans people – first in Argentina in 2015, then in Brazil in 2017.
More than five years after the launch of the first apprenticeship program, it’s clear that inclusion also has its ripple effects – positive ones. Dow’s programs inspired other major companies in Latin America to learn from our experiences and create similar ones.
“In the past five years, it is the first time I’ve heard companies talk about inclusion of transgender individuals,” said Renan Henrique, a business process specialist and GLAD Brazil leader. “That is something we thought we would never see five years ago, and all of sudden, it’s not just within Dow. It impacted the whole value chain.”
From the start, a goal of the apprenticeship programs was to inspire other companies to launch similar initiatives and create a bigger impact in the communities in which they were implemented.
“We would invite our customers to spend an afternoon at Dow and to share what we are doing,” Henrique said. “We’d say: ‘Look, there’s an opportunity to start your journey and we are here to help you. We have learned a few lessons and can share them with you.’”
Among the challenges, most of the transgender apprentice candidates lacked university training, English skills and a previous job experience because of their marginalized backgrounds, according to Camila Cervera, a customer manager for Polyurethanes and the GLAD Argentina leader. In both Argentina and Brazil, Dow partnered with other multinational companies to establish rotational programs that would expand the job experiences of the apprenticeships. In addition to on-the-job training, apprentices in Brazil attended classes once a week through a partner agency that provided instruction on technical and communications skills, English preparation and psychological support. In Argentina, apprentices were assigned mentors from GLAD.
“These apprentices would have not only their formal leader to go to for any particular topics, they also have a GLAD member – someone who will understand their particular needs,” Cervera said.
Although all of Dow’s apprenticeship training paused during COVID, we are moving ahead to grow support for young trans people seeking work in Latin America. In Argentina, there are plans to formalize the apprenticeship program by transitioning it from a GLAD project to an initiative supervised by Human Resources. In Brazil, Dow is partnering with NURAP to fund a three-month job skills program that will help prepare young trans people to take formal jobs at other companies.
Called Transformado, the program was initiated by Dow’s GLAD chapter in Brazil and funded through Dow’s ALL IN ERG Fund. The ALL IN ERG Fund competitive grant program engages Dow’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to champion projects in Dow communities. The training program is scheduled to launch this year and include 20 young apprentices.
“Transformando’s intent is to prepare and qualify apprentices enough to increase their chances of being retained once they are placed in a company,” Henrique said. “This is Dow walking the talk on inclusion.”