4 in 10 of Belgian transgender employees have quit their job due to an unwelcoming environment


For International Transgender Day of Visibility, Belgian jobsite StepStone surveyed 121 transgender* employees from different industries across Belgium and now unveils its survey ‘Transgender employees at Work 2021’. The results highlight the career challenges that transgender employees of the Belgian society face today, thanks to transgender employees sharing their personal experiences in the workplace and the significant barriers that they encounter.


39% of respondents has already left their employer – a substantial increase compared to 27% in 2017

A key question in the 2017 edition highlighted transgender employees having left their job because the work environment was unwelcoming. Back then, 27% confirmed this to be the case. In 2021, this percentage grew further and is at 39% of respondents saying that they have already quit their job during their career. A little less than half (48%) said this was not the case, while another 13% choose not to answer or said this question was not applicable to them.

Age would seem to be a potential factor, as well, with 48% of participants younger than 35 stating that they have left their employer already due to an unwelcoming environment, vs. 34% of participants who were older than 35.

Specifically, 31% of participants identifying as a transgender woman said they had already quit their job due to an unwelcome environment (with 48% saying no and 21% preferring not to answer), while for participants identifying as a transgender man, this was 43% (with 43% saying no and 13% preferring not to answer). For non-binary respondents, this was 42% (with 25% saying no and 33% preferring not to answer).

Additionally, more than 2 in 3 of all transgender respondents (68%) said they had found it necessary at some point in their career to keep their gender identity and/or gender expression hidden from colleagues.


Almost 2 in 3 has experienced discrimination due to being a transgender employee

Unfortunately, the numbers on discrimination (or at least the visibility of discrimination) seemed to have grown, as well, when comparing them to the study StepStone did in 2017. In 2021, 65% of the respondents stated that they already experienced discrimination due to being a transgender employee at work. This percentage grew by 3% when comparing this to 2017 (65% now vs 62% in 2017).

Regarding the age split, 73% of respondents younger than 35 said they had already been discriminated against due to being a transgender employee, while 61% of participants older than 35 confirmed the same. When looking at different subgroups, 73% of transgender men and 62% of transgender women stated having already experienced discrimination, while this was 75% for non-binary respondents.

The main areas in which discrimination took place, according to the respondents in 2021, were:

  • Discrimination involving protection and respect for private life (17%)
  • Discrimination during the recruitment phase and job interview (15%)
  • Discrimination involving dismissal and/or resignation (15%)

Coordinator of the Flemish Transgender Infopunt & professor in Gender Studies Joz Motmans adds: “As Transgender Infopunt, we are an official complaint centre for discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression, and most cases we receive deal with problems at work. We work closely with equality bodies in our country to follow up these complaints.”


“Current governmental support is insufficient”, while feelings on increased media attention and challenges in 2021 cause a divide

When asked if the government in our country is making a sufficient effort to support transgender employees at work, only 14% said the current support is (more than) sufficient. While 28% choose to remain neutral, 58% said the governmental support is either insufficient or totally insufficient.

Interestingly, 84% of French-speaking respondents said current support is (totally) insufficient for them, while this was only the case according to 51% of their Dutch-speaking counterparts. This more negative trend was similar across the different age groups, while slightly elevated for participants younger than 35 for both languages groups.

Not all responses were equally clear, since the following statements seemed to cause a split in responses given. Regarding media attention, the participants were given the following statement: “Acceptance and understanding of transgender employees in the workplace has improved due to the increased media attention?”. The results were:

  • 44% (strongly) agreed
  • 29% neither agreed or disagreed
  • 26% (strongly) disagreed

When given the statement “Transgender employees face fewer challenges in 2021 than they did previously”, the following answers were given:

  • 39% (strongly) agreed
  • 30% neither agreed or disagreed
  • 30% (strongly) disagreed


Belgian employers could be more supportive

The survey also tells us that there are some big opportunities for Belgian employers in supporting transgender employees in the workplace. A stunning 62,5% of all respondents said their employer doesn’t provide any support for transgender employees specifically. Here, there were no significant differences between Dutch or French speaking respondents.

When support is present at the workplace already, it is mostly in these categories:

  • Guidelines to avoid discrimination upon gender expression and identity at work, being present according to 32% of the respondents
  • Equal development and promotion opportunities for transgender employees, according to 28% of the respondents
  • Explicit indication in job adverts that transgender employees are welcome, according to 21% of the respondents

Interestingly, 42% of the respondents said that they actively look for companies with trans-friendly policies when applying for a job. Only 31% said this was not the case, while 27% choose not to answer or stated the question was not applicable for them.

Additionally, 7% of the respondents said they explicitly received support from a transgender support organization in finding a job because of their gender identity and/or expression.

Professor Motmans adds: “Employers should become aware of their potential contribution to the well-being of transgender people at work. An explicit transgender policy at work is helpful for both companies and employees as it creates transparency, visibility and equality. As Transgender Infopunt, we are here to help firms to set up such a policy, as we successfully did so already for the Flemish Government and for the Belgian railways.”

Aurore Dufrasne, psychologist at Genres Pluriels (an association supporting transgender and intersex people), lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and coordinator of the Belgian Trans* and Inter* Psycho-medico-social Network, emphasizes the association’s role as mediator in the support of reports of discrimination experienced by transgender people at work. In many situations, an awareness of transidentity is proposed to the employer and the team.


Transitioning as a potential impactful change for the relationship between transgender employees and their colleagues

Of the respondents, 86% had already taken steps into a potential (social, medical and/or legal) transition. Here, StepStone asked about the support at work during this lifechanging process and its impact on the employee.

It seems that the appropriate support and guidance during the transition by the HR department seems to be more established than the aforementioned more general guidelines and actions. Almost 1 in 3 confirmed that they did receive the appropriate support from HR (31%), while 27% said they did not and for 41%, the question was not applicable.

The reaction of colleagues, as well, seems to be deemed more positively. An impressive 60% of respondents said their colleagues reacted either somewhat or mainly positive, while for 8%, the reactions were (plain) negative. 71% also stated they feel (totally) accepted by colleagues, while for 12%, this was not (at all) the case.

Their own workplace performance was also positively impacted according to the transgender employees who had taken steps into a possible transition. More than 4 in 10 (44%) would rate their performance as (much) better since transitioning. For 6%, this was worse than before.

Ratings on stress level in the workplace since transitioning, however, were split. Almost 1 in 3 (32%) stated this was (much) better, but for 20%, this was either worse or much worse. For 29%, this remained the same as before transitioning.



With the ‘Transgender Employees at Work 2021’ survey, StepStone hopes to support greater awareness of employment issues faced by transgender workers and to help society more broadly to understand the significant barriers transgender people encounter.

Regarding the demographic spread, we interviewed 121 Belgian transgender employees of which 25% was French speaking (30), 67% was Dutch speaking (67%) and 8% was English speaking (9). Regarding age, the following groups could be recognized: 16-24 years old (9%), 25-34 years old (26%), 35-44 years old (29%), 45-54 years old (20%), 55-64 years old (15%) and over 65 years old (1%). Regarding gender identity, 31% identified as a trans woman, 26% as a trans man and 15% nonbinary (people who identify themselves as neither male nor female, or both), specifically. This data was collected from January 2021 until February 2021.

We would like to thank Prof. dr. Joz Motmans (UGent); Aurore Dufrasne, psychologist at Genres Pluriels ; Transgender Infopunt, Genres Pluriels, Rainbow Cops Belgium, Casa Rosa: Regenbooghuis Oost-Vlaanderen, UniQue: Vlaams-Brabants Regenbooghuis, Regenbooghuis Limburg, Tels Quels, les CHEFF, GenderGender.com, Facebookgroep “TG-België”, Facebookgroep “Transgender zoekt een relatie of vriendschap” and Samuel Dali for the guidance, outreach and support throughout the writing and distribution process.

For further information or questions on the topic, we gladly refer to any of the specific organizations mentioned above (e.g. Transgender Infopunt for English and/or Dutch-speaking transgender employees, as well as Genres Pluriels for English and/or French-speaking transgender employees).

* ‘Transgender’ is used as an overarching term for those who call themselves transgender men or women, non-binary people and all other forms of gender variation. As the term does not refer to a problem or disorder, it avoids stigmatization and/or medicalization of the condition.


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