After two years of production, TransWork, a job resource program built by Philadelphia’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Independence Business Alliance (IBA), launches this fall with a series of workshops and job fairs benefiting the city’s trans and nonbinary communities. The program kicks off Thursday afternoon at William Way LGBT Community Center. A job preparedness workshop will offer focus sessions on resumes, interviews, entrepreneurship, plus a legal segment outlining the workplace rights of trans employees.
“I think [the legal segment] is going to give folks some idea of what their rights are specifically related to their gender expression and what organizations have to provide in terms of protections locally for folks who have either transitioned or are mid-transition,” said Zach Wilcha, IBA’s executive director.
Sessions will be organized consecutively and feature presentations by an array of speakers. Question and answer sessions will follow, along with an interactive series of resume help and mock interviews, and the workshop is just the beginning.
TransWork has three job fairs planned for autumn, alongside the launch of a digital job bank where inclusive employers can post company openings. The first job fair, set for September 10, is with Philadelphia International Airport, the second will host Independence Blue Cross. Wilcha describes both employers as historically inclusive.
“The folks at IBX and the Philadelphia Airport definitely had protections in place, have hired trans folks before and are conversant in the issues around trans employment. So we were very confident in having individual job fairs with them,” said Wilcha.
While Wilcha, TransWork’s administrator, is cisgender, he stressed that IBA took the lead from the spoken needs of the trans community in developing the program.
TransWork’s board and advising committee are entirely trans, as were the multiple focus groups that informed the program’s lengthy production process. The idea for the initiative originated with Marcus Iannozzi, principal and owner of local web design company The Message Agency and a trans-identifying TransWork board member.
“It was his idea to bring an economic empowerment program for trans folks to the Philadelphia area that would concentrate on both employment and entrepreneurship,” said Wilcha.
As for the change the program can create in the community, Tatyana Woodard, Community Health Engagement Coordinator at Mazzoni Center and TransWork collaborator believes it can help alleviate the rates of violence enacted against trans women of color.
“We know that some of those murders were definitely hate crimes and definitely because of identity. But we also know that some of those crimes come too, with sex work,” said Woodard, who is a trans woman.
The Human Rights Council reported the violent deaths of 26 transgender people in the U.S. in 2018, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. So far in 2019, at least 16 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed and 15 of those victims are Black trans women.
Like Woodard, HRC attributes some of those deaths to environmental risks inflicted by a victim’s transgender status: unemployment, poverty, homelessness and survival sex work.
Woodard hopes TransWork can combat the violence, by teaching “life skills” and expanding the employment opportunities available to trans people, especially trans women of color.
Change is also in the hands of the city’s employers, said Woodward.
“Definitely before my legal name was changed, I had a hard time getting jobs. I would interview, wouldn’t receive a callback, and my skill sets matched the job and some of the jobs I was even overqualified for,” said Woodard. “So, I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think TransWork is a great step in that direction.”
TransWork’s Job Prep Workshop 2019 is August 22, 4-7 p.m. at William Way Community Center, Ballroom, Second Floor, 1315 Spruce Street. For more information, visit https://transwork.org/events/job-prep-workshop.