In 2014, Michelle Sheppard found herself without work even though she’d been working in IT for 20 years.
‘I could barely afford my rent and food and hit an extreme low point in my life,’ she told Gay Star News.
But a fateful chat with an initiative that helps women find jobs would ‘spring board’ her career. Now, Sheppard is a high profile public speaker, radio presenter and passionate advocate for trans and gender diverse people.
During her unemployment, Sheppard became a client of Fitted For Work in the Australian city, Melbourne. It is a not-for-profit organisation which has helped more than 35,000 women finding and maintaining work.
‘We help women experiencing disadvantage get into work and keep it,’ Sheppard said.
‘We offer employment services which help women build their skills and develop their confidence in order to achieve meaningful work.’
Over the past five years, Sheppard has worked closely with businesses, government organisations and sporting groups to make them more LGBTI inclusive. She has also fought hard to raise awareness of trans employment barriers.
Trans work initiative
Sheppard’s efforts in this area lead to her winning an award for Excellence in Business. Which then also lead to her successfully pitching employment program specifically for trans women to Fitted For Work.
In the past as advocates we kept the T in the LGBTIQ+ in but it wasn’t getting attention beyond Mental/Physical care. I decided to combine it with women’s issues instead to change the focus to reminding people we are women who are experiencing disadvantage get into work and keep it,’ she said.
The program has won the support of the Victorian State Government. The government has allocated it funding through the Jobs Victoria Innovation Fund (JVIF).
Creating a trans specific service is crucial to help trans women who face so many barriers getting and keeping employment.
‘Transgender people face multiple barriers to participation in employment and may also face difficulties gaining recognition for their prior employment or qualifications due to name or gender changes,’ Sheppard said.