How Prudential’s inclusive culture made a difference for one transgender employee.
By Kara Corridan
Lindsay Mantell with their dog, Willow.
“So, I am trans. It’s the first time I’m saying that at work.”
This is how my conversation with Lindsay Mantell, specialist, IT Service Management, Global Technology, began. “I have ‘they/them’ as my pronouns in my signature. But I’ve never explicitly said I’m trans.”
Upon learning that the PRIDE business resource group was looking for a trans employee willing to share their story, “I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it. I’ve got nothing to hide,’” says Mantell. So today — which is the 13th annual Transgender Day of Visibility — they are coming forward with their experience, including how working at Prudential has enhanced their journey.
What is trans?
Transgender is an adjective to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, according to GLAAD, an organization that works to counter discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in the media and promotes understanding, acceptance and equality. Being transgender is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.
Mantell was assigned female at birth. “Being raised as a woman didn’t ever fit. It wasn’t something I connected to. I’ve never presented myself as a feminine person,” they recall. Mantell came out as gay as a young teenager “and that was no big deal,” but it wasn’t until they were a student at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities that they started to question their gender identity.
During a class on LGBTQ+ history in the U.S., which included the concept of being nonbinary, something clicked for Mantell. Nonbinary, according to GLAAD, is used by people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the gender categories of “man” and “woman.” Many, but not all, nonbinary people also call themselves transgender. This includes Mantell, who explains, “My specific identity is ‘agender,’ so I don’t have one.”
It’s partly for this reason that Mantell has not come out to their family. “They would be … fine. They would just be confused, because they don’t know anybody who’s transgender, especially nonbinary — or at least they think they don’t. They understand the transition from male to female or female to male. But they’ve asked me, ‘What’s this whole nonbinary business? What are singular they/them pronouns? They don’t make sense.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, they do. I promise you.”
Being trans at work
During college, Mantell looked for internships through this lens: “I don’t want to work for a company that will hurt me.” More specifically, they were only willing to work at companies that fit specific criteria: Its website had to publicly acknowledge what it was doing for its LGBTQ+ employees. Even better, it had to have a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring company policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. Prudential, which has scored 100 on the Corporate Equality Index for 19 years and in February was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality for the 20th consecutive year, checked both boxes.
Mantell wore a suit and tie to the internship interview. “It’s what makes me comfortable and gives me the most confidence.” They asked what was happening at Prudential for the LGBTQ+ community. The interviewer “was on top of that answer,” noting the PRIDE business resource group — which was Prudential’s first BRG, founded in 1993 — as well as events at the company and even in the wider community.
When offered the internship, Mantell didn’t hesitate to accept. That decision felt even more right when they entered their manager’s office on their first day and saw a sign designating he was an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. “I thought, ‘This is somewhere I can see myself working. Fast forward to my full-time offer, I knew I would feel safe with my identity at Prudential.” Mantell has been a full-time employee since 2018 and is now a PRIDE board member.
As comfortable as Mantell feels at Prudential, they see room for improvement. For example, they’d like to be able to easily change Teams settings to include information beyond one’s name, including pronouns or even a nickname.
Support in many forms
Employees looking for support of the trans community can find myriad ways at Prudential. Last week, the company signed the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation. Prudential joined more than 200 companies stating their clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of LGBTQ+ people in society.
Offices in Newark, New Jersey; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Jacksonville, Florida have been redesigned to include all-gender bathrooms in addition to gender-specific ones. All-gender bathrooms are planned for offices in Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, too, as redesigned spaces are built over the next 12 to 18 months.
Inclusive Solutions and PRIDE hosted an event last November with GenderCool, an organization that helps replace misinformed opinions with positive experiences meeting transgender and nonbinary youth who are thriving. During the event, a transgender teen and his father talked about their experiences in a way that did not present being trans as a problem to be fixed. For employees like Mantell, this was “a light of positivity.”
“It was such a happy event,” they recall. “That’s so rare when you talk about trans people. It’s usually about suicide rates; it’s about violence; it’s about what can go wrong.”
After the event, employees reached out to GenderCool to express their appreciation and ask questions about additional resources, says GenderCool founder Gearah Goldstein.
“For many parents of trans and nonbinary young people, their biggest fears are: Where will my child be respected? Can they get a job? Can they live a productive life without being harassed or without being negatively impacted because of who they are or who they love?” Goldstein explains.
“By having corporate partners like Prudential, there’s a very strong message that everything is okay. You are right for accepting and loving your own child — and there are companies actively recruiting and waiting for the community to come forward and work with them.”
Caroline Faulkner, head of Prudential’s Enabling Solutions group and PRIDE executive sponsor, shares her perspective. “Prudential has a long history of supporting our LGBTQ+ employees and advocating for equality and inclusion. The hard work of our PRIDE business resource group, which today boasts more than 1,000 employee members, has been critical in successfully advancing many key diversity and inclusion initiatives at Prudential, such as the launch of our voluntary Count Me In! initiative that enables employees to self-identify their disability, military veteran, and LGBTQ+ status,” she says. “Real change is taking place here, and I couldn’t be prouder about how we are making such a positive impact in the lives of so many.”