NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Finding solutions to the most pressing business issues is more important than ever before, and it's bad business to ignore those solutions if they come from an unfamiliar place -- not to mention wrong. For reminding us of this lesson anew, we have Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn, to thank.
Regardless of what you think of the Kardashian clan, if it were not for the family and their adopted father, Olympic hero Bruce Jenner, who has recently come out as transgendered, far less attention would be devoted to the discussion about transgendered individuals and the complicated choices they are faced with. The topic would be avoided in the workplace or, at best, viewed as a sidebar and handled on an exception-only basis. And we're talking about questions as seemingly basic as "Which bathroom to use at work?" But when it's a national icon and all-American hero the rules change -- whether we are ready to accept them or not.
Through her public disclosure, Caitlyn Jenner is forcing us to consider our views and beliefs, and to reflect on the implications for us personally and for the organizations where we are employed. It is likely that Jenner's visibility will open the door for many more to choose this path. How will organization's respond and what should we expect of them? And as colleagues, what is expected of us? In a word, it is simple: Tolerance.
Innovation and creativity must always trump bias at superior businesses. The decisions about who can and should deliver fresh new ideas must be based on value -- not values. There is no room or time now to be gender- or gender identity-blind. The opportunity costs are far too great in lost ideas and revenue -- and in missing out on the creative combustion that happens when people of different backgrounds and perspectives come together to build a better mousetrap.
There are a number of forces that influence how and where transgender individuals are most likely to live and to work. They usually fall into one or more of the following four categories. These categories also happen to share a few underlying core themes of respect, dignity, safety, and the ability to fit in without fear of being marginalized professionally; stuff that the rest of us take for granted as our right and entitlement:
1. Location. Large urban cities tend to be a destination for individuals who feel or look different. Transgender individuals deserve to live everywhere, but large cities offer a level of anonymity and diversity that is rarely available in smaller communities. When you are perceived as different from the norm, bigger cities offer the potential to be both visible and invisible at once and the benefit of safety in numbers.
2. Industry and function. For the time being, some industries are more accepting of those who may be different or push the boundaries. Typically, creative industries like apparel and interior design, cosmetics, entertainment, and hair care offer a safe haven. It is rarely an issue for hairdressers; whereas finding a transgendered employee on Wall Street would be like trying to find a very tiny needle in an enormous haystack.
3. Your Generation. For the most part, it doesn't matter to younger folk. Emerging technology companies don't seem to have a problem when people look different. That's because they grew up watching "Will and Grace" and "Modern Family." Their reference points and boundaries are a lot fuzzier than those of their older colleagues. Perspectives will inevitably change when older workers retire or die. But before we reach that point, it seems a lot easier and less final to consider an attitude adjustment and some retraining.
4. Talent. For organizations that value function over form and for clients or patients who overlook the packaging in favor of the very best bespoke solutions, a person's gender has virtually no bearing on the service performed. Transgender has no meaning here. A good example: the renowned pediatric ophthalmologist Renee Richards was born Richard Raskind. When it comes to children of the rich and famous, she has been on speed dial for several generations of New York's society families.
Roy Cohen is a career coach and the author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach, the definitive book on building a career on Wall Street.