By Laura Christof
Among our company values is: We do the right thing. Sometimes it’s easy to spot an issue and do what’s right. Other times, it takes a nudge and some education to move forward. That’s what happened after employees raised concerns that our company health insurance didn’t cover some components of medical care for transgender individuals.
Starting in 2021, company medical plans have expanded coverage options to include additional common transgender procedures deemed medically necessary, allowing employees to use company-covered insurance coverage instead of paying out of pocket.
Adding benefits like this can be life changing for two important reasons. First, many of these procedures cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, making the decision to change your body to match your identity financially difficult or impossible. Second, employees previously would’ve been informed by some providers that these procedures were simply “cosmetic”, adding to the emotional trauma of gender dysphoria, where what you see in the mirror doesn’t align with how you identify.
Defense Systems’ Andi Wofford, who has been with the company nearly 13 years, has been a key advocate for inclusion. After transitioning a few years ago, Andi stepped up to support team members through transitions, including working closely to implement the company’s Transgender Inclusion Toolkit.
Feeling accepted according to their physical appearance is a major milestone for many members of the transgender community. Andi reiterated that medical procedures can be lifesaving surgeries. “You’re dealing with a 41% attempted suicide rate for trans people,” she said, referring to results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
Aeronautic Systems’ Taylor Swensen, another advocate, didn’t want other transgender employees to go through the same issues she faced at previous employers and in her transition.
“When we started to educate and engage with people on this we were initially motivated by our own needs, but we also saw the needs of others that we knew would be in a similar situation in the future,” said Taylor. “If we can’t have an easy journey for ourselves, we can try and make it smoother for people that come after.”
Both Andi and Taylor are highly involved in employee resource groups, including Pride in Diversity Alliance (PrIDA). They both expressed gratitude for the open dialogue they’ve had with members of human resources, who have the difficult job of processing all employees’ needs when weighing changes to any of our benefits.
“I very much appreciated the conversation with Andi and Taylor. Their experiences and background helped us to partner with our vendors to make our medical plans work better for our employees,” said Leslie Melton, Director of Benefits. “We can all learn from each other, and I’m grateful that their efforts will support others’ needs in the future.”
Northrop Grumman is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and was included in the Human Rights Campaign’s list of 2021 Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.
While the change in our medical coverage is an important milestone for our transgender colleagues, it’s also an example of the kind of culture we want to have at the company, where employees are able to openly advocate for themselves and others.
“When you’re doing it to help others, it really speaks to the culture of our company here at Northrop Grumman,” remarked Taylor.
“The general message I want to get out to people is don’t just sit back. Be an active participant,” said Andi. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and have conversations with people because they can have positive effects long-term.”
In the end, it’s about doing the right thing for everyone.
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