Business Organizations

These Organizations Help Advance LGBT Workplace Equity

Sandhya Daniels

Celia Sandhya Daniels has 23 years of experience as a business and management consultant with expertise in computer science. She has worked with Fortune 500 health care and biotechnology companies such as UnitedHealth Group and Gilead Sciences Inc. and managed a $250 million portfolio throughout her career.
But after she came out as transgender, Sandhya Daniels said, clients “dropped like a hot potato,” and she struggled to find jobs.

“I tried applying for jobs, and people wouldn’t want to hire me at the same level,” Sandhya Daniels said.

“I was a senior director in these companies … but unfortunately I’ve seen that people are not valued because of who they are, even in spite of being educated,” she said.

Knowing that she wasn’t alone, Sandhya Daniels in 2016 started working for Trans Can Work Inc., a Los Feliz-based nonprofit dedicated to achieving workplace equality and economically empowering transgender people.

Trans Can Work is one of several local nonprofits in this space. The services these organizations provide have become even more essential over the past year as workplace discrimination and disparities in unemployment worsened during the pandemic.

According to a study released in March by Human Rights Campaign Foundation and PSB Insights, both based in Washington, D.C., 22% of LGBT individuals were unemployed during the fourth quarter of 2020, when the monthly national unemployment rate ranged from 6.7% to 7.9%. The study found that 19% of transgender individuals were unemployed in that time.

For those who remained employed, 31% of LGBT individuals and 43% of transgender individuals reported having their work hours cut, whereas 18% of the general population reported losing hours.

Even Trans Can Work clients who are highly educated have had trouble finding jobs at companies with inclusive policies and cultures amid the pandemic, Sandhya Daniels said.

“It’s sad to look at their resumes and think about why they would get discriminated against,” she said. “So that leads us to a point where I think companies need to rethink their strategy.”

Here are three organizations helping companies adjust their strategies as they strive to make workplaces more equitable for members of the LGBT community in Los Angeles.

Trans Can Work

Trans Can Work’s mission is to educate employers on transgender inclusivity and equality “from bathroom to boardroom,” said Sandhya Daniels, who serves as the organization’s chief programs officer.
Founded in 2016, Trans Can Work offers services for employers and job seekers. For employers, the organization offers evaluations, consultations, training and recruiting support.

“We educate employers at a point where they look at the entire spectrum within the company,” Sandhya Daniels said. “They’re looking at their policies, looking at their inclusivity, looking at HR, legal, finance, payroll.”

For employees, the organization offers career consultation, networking and courses to develop skills such as resume writing, interviewing, self-promotion and financial well-

The organization also provides “wraparound services,” Sandhya Daniels said, connecting its clients with mental health, homelessness, incarceration and immigration resources.

Trans Can Work has seen an influx of between 800 and 1,000 people seeking services amid the pandemic, double the number it received pre-pandemic. The organization now offers all its training sessions and services online.  
It will open an office in San Diego in late summer.  

Trans Can Work

TOP EXECUTIVE: Michaela Mendelsohn
SERVICES: Employment services
CONTACT INFORMATION: (805) 222-0502 | [email protected]

StartOut Los Angeles Chapter

StartOut helps entrepreneurs in the LGBT community network grow and raise funding, according to Sandra Sick, Los Angeles Programming Board co-chair for the organization.
With more than 17,000 members at its eight chapters in the United States, StartOut is the largest nonprofit in the country supporting LGBT entrepreneurs.

StartOut was founded in 2009 in San Francisco and launched its Los Angeles chapter in 2013. In the eight years since, StartOut L.A. has grown to more than 2,000 members.

“StartOut is a younger, nimble company, and we work a lot with a lot of startups that are like us, bootstrapping and getting a lot done with small steps,” Sick said.

StartOut helps entrepreneurs connect with mentors and potential investors, and it offers “theme-based” programming on early stage funding, financial management and networking.

StartOut also launched a six-month accelerator program called the Growth Lab in 2017 offering mentorship, connections to investors and free legal consultation from DLA Piper. The program to date has 35 alumni who have raised more than $250 million and created 300 jobs, Sick said.

Prior to the pandemic, the L.A. chapter held monthly events for members, which Sick hopes to begin again as Covid-19 restrictions ease. 

StartOut: Los Angeles Chapter

TOP EXECUTIVES: Sandra Sick, Cindy Lamar, Craig Lyn
SERVICES: Networking and investor partnership
CONTACT INFORMATION: (415) 275-2446 | [email protected]

Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Project

The Los Angeles LGBT Center launched its Transgender Economic Empowerment Project in 2010. Since then, it has supported upwards of 3,000 clients, according to Program Manager Eden Anaï Luna.
“We work with the community and employers to be able to bridge the connection between our community members and to offer opportunities for employment,” they said.

The mission of the project is to support transgender job seekers and educate employers on providing an equitable workplace environment for LGBT employees.
It also offers gender and sexuality diversity training for employers, which go over best practices on how to respect identities, pronouns and challenges faced by the transgender community.

The project has worked with major companies, includin

g Inc., Monster Beverage Corp. and Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Luna’s goal is to attract more donors in order to expand the program throughout Southern California. Their goal is for more companies to take advantage of the project’s long-term training programs to ensure that companies’ employees are protected and supported in the workplace.

Los Angeles LGBT Center: Transgender Economic Empowerment Project

LOCATION: Koreatown
SERVICES: Job placement and employer training
CONTACT INFORMATION: 323-993-2900 / [email protected]

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