How My Gender Transition Made Me a More Valuable Employee
For many years I struggled with my gender identity. I knew from an early age that there was a disconnect between my gender identity and the sex I was assigned at birth. While I knew for many years that I needed to transition, I lived a life where I tried to conform to the expectations of those around me.
In 2007 I joined JPMorgan Chase, and, on my first day with the company, I saw a link on the human resource home page with resources for transitioning your gender in the work place. At that moment I knew I was in a safe place to transition when the time was right.
I began my career with Chase as a licensed personal banker, and by the end of my first year I was promoted to assistant branch manager, where I opened a new branch in Round Rock, TX. In 2008, I finally came to terms with my need to transition. I came out to my spouse and really began to research transitioning and what it entails. I heard stories about people losing their jobs, being ostracized and even worse. It was a very confusing time, and I felt like my life was unraveling. Emotionally, it was no longer an option to keep fighting my need to transition.
At this same time, my manager was encouraging me to become a branch manager, and I worried about what people would think if I began a gender transition. My career had been on a fast track, and I worried that transition would affect my ability to continue growing my career with Chase.
As I researched what I needed to do in order to transition, I read stories about people who waited until the last minute to tell their human resources departments or managers, and the chaos that occurred as a result of waiting too long. I also read a number of stories of people losing their jobs shortly after transitioning
So I contacted JPMorgan Chase’s PRIDE Business Resources Group (an internal employee support group) for guidance on the best way to inform the company. Business Resources Groups bring employees together and also foster networking opportunities and a sense of camaraderie. These groups are defined by shared affinities, including race and cultural heritage, generation, gender, sexual orientation, military status and professional roles.
The PRIDE global secretary introduced me to three people: a colleague who had transitioned in the workplace, a corporate diversity manager and an HR business partner. They were all tremendously supportive and committed to helping me through the transition.
During the process I seriously considered remaining as an assistant branch manager, believing that my career would likely stall out with my transition. But soon I came to the decision that I was not going to let that happen. There was an opening for a branch manager trainee. I applied and interviewed for the position several months before my transition. I brushed up on my sales skills, filled in for my manager and did whatever I could to grow and actively pursue the role. I really wanted to show I could do it.
During that time I worked with my HR business partner to set a transition date, plan communications to my peers, and set a plan to ensure that even simple things were taken care of - like ordering updated name badges that included my new name.
Then, I was out of the office for two weeks to get ready for my transition. During that time, my transition was communicated to my branch network, and the support from my local management was heartfelt and awesome.
On my first day back at work, I had lunch with my manager and another assistant manager. They both commented on how positive I was. My manager even said that seeing how happy I was made it clear that this was the right thing for me to do.
On my second day back, I was told I was promoted to the manager trainee program. Not only was I extremely proud and happy, it made me realize that my transition didn’t matter. It just wasn’t an issue. I was promoted based on the quality of my work. It was another confirmation that JPMorgan Chase really does “live” its policies.
I was amazed by the level of support, understanding, commitment and desire to help. I’d been terrified for many years. To have things turn out so much better than I imagined is amazing, and Chase—including PRIDE, Diversity and HR—were a big part of that. Now I’m totally comfortable with who I am and I am excelling even more because I can just be me.
Over the years I found that my transition was not a liability, but an asset to the company. I bring my full authentic self to work, which enables me to fully and genuinely engage with my peers and my customers. My managers, my peers, and my employees value me for the knowledge, expertise, and passion for our customers and our people. As a result, I excelled as a branch manager, leading larger and larger branches over the years. In 2012 I was recognized with a special leadership award and invited to the Branch Manager National Achievers Trip. My transition made me a better and more valuable employee for the firm.
Last year I made the move from branch manager to Private Client Banker. Being comfortable with who I am enables me to connect with customers, and earn their trust easier than I ever did before. Today I help my customer with their most important financial goals, and they consider me a valued and trusted advisor. I no longer held back by the worries I had before.
Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. Before my transition, I hid from the world. Now I am actively involved in my community and living an active and productive life in addition to building a career at Chase. After my transition I helped launch the Austin Chapter of the PRIDE Business Resource Group in order to help connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees with resources and networking opportunities to grow their careers at Chase. I also became chair of the North Texas Chapter.
There was a time when being out as an LGBT employee in the work place was not an option. Today, and especially here at Chase, LGBT employees are increasingly recognized for their contribution to our business and the impact that we make on the lives of our customers and the success of the firm. For those who are starting careers at Chase or struggling with being out in the workplace, my advice is to just do you. You are valued here at Chase and you matter. Here at Chase, we value the contributions of all our employees, and the firm fully understands the importance and value of our employees being able to bring their full authentic selves to work.
About the Author:
Kathryn Winters is a Private Client Banker in Denton Texas. She has been with Chase for 10 years, and has worked closely with PRIDE Business Resource Groups both in Austin and North Texas. She lives in Denton, TX with her wife, Bailey, and their three children. Kathryn is also very active in the Denton community, volunteering with organizations that support LGBT youth and the transgender community, their friends, family, and allies.