According to national statistics, unemployment rates for transgender individuals is three times as high as the unemployment rate for the rest of America. Ashley’s post this week is a stark reminder of these statistics. The Transgender Job Bank was launched in July of 2008 to address this need. I caught up with the site’s founder and Executive Director Jillian Barfield to get the scoop.

1. Why was The Transgender Job Bank founded?
In 2007 I attended the Southern Comfort Conference. Joe Solmonese, the President of HRC was invited to give the keynote address at a banquet attended by 800+ transgender people, many of them leaders in our community. He talked about how HRC was 100% behind trans people and would never accept a non-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which was currently being debated in Congress. A short two weeks later it was reported that HRC had begun to actively lobby AGAINST the transgender inclusive version of ENDA going so far as to use what they call their Congressional Scorecard to threaten members of congress to either vote against the inclusive version of ENDA or be given a bad score.

The LGBT community responded in an unprecedented manner condemning HRC’s actions. Some Congresspeople also stood with us against the discriminatory legislation despite the fact that they were later to receive a bad scorecard from HRC.

The Transgender Job Bank was founded in response to those events. I feel that transgender people should not rely on LGBT advocates to speak for them or to push forward a trans specific agenda. It’s my opinion that although many LBG advocacy organizations include ‘transgender’ in their mission, transgender issues are not a priority. While we are absolutely supportive of lesbian, bi-sexual and gay issues, TJobBank was created to address transgender specific needs in the workplace.

In many cases, transgender people find it impossible to ‘closet’ ourselves. We’re frequently ‘outed’ based on our appearance, our voices and our history. Unlike LBG people, a background check can ‘out’ us. In a large part, we’re sitting ducks. Trans workplace issues are trans specific and require specific focus. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to earn a living.

2. How many clients do you serve each year?
In our seven months of operation, we have had 12,140 unique visitors to our site and 514,313 hits. These numbers don’t include repeat visitors.

3. How can an employer post a job listing to your site?
Posting an opportunity to our site is very easy. No account is required. Simply fill out our online form with the job information and a contact email address and submit – that’s all there is to it. All contacts are kept confidential.

Candidate applications are sent via the website. Both prospective employers and candidates have the ability to remain anonymous if they should choose to do so. Privacy is our number one concern.

4. How does T Job Bank screen employers?
The first time an employment opportunity is placed into our system, it is automatically sent to a staff member for review. If the ad is approved, any listings made using the same employer’s contact email are automatically posted going forward. There is also a link on the site for candidates to notify us of invalid postings.

5. Do you have any requirements that they have an inclusive nondiscrimination or anti-harassment policy?
All employers who post to our site, by the act of doing so are considered trans inclusive. We do not check for written policies, however by posting opportunities to our site, a prospective employer will expect applications from transgender candidates.

6. Are there other factors you use to determine if an employer is trans inclusive?
Corporations listed on the HRC Corporate Equality Index as being 100% inclusive are assumed by the HRC to be trans inclusive although they are not validated as such. This is NOT the case at TJobBank.

Those same corporations are personally invited to post opportunities on TJobBank. To date, there has been one job posted by any of the corporations on the CEI, a job for a cook in Los Angeles posted by Sodexho. It should be noted that this particular opportunity received more applications than any other job ever posted on TJobBank, by far.

We’ve also invited members of UnitedEnda to post opportunities and many have done so.

7. What would you say are a few of the top policy issues the Obama administration will face in order to live up to his campaign promises of representing the transgender community?
President Obama has promised to support the passage of a unified ENDA. The White House website states that Barack Obama believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. We would like him to fulfill this promise.

Obama’s transition team’s EEO policy protects gender identity. We would like to see those protections expanded to the entire US government and would like the Obama administration to drive those changes.

It’s understood that the state of the economy and fighting two wars will take precedence in the beginning stages of the Obama administration. We do however hope that these issues will be addressed within the first term of this administration.

Thanks so much for your time, Jillian. And thanks for providing this amazing resource for our community.