Why you should care
Because being accepting of the LGBT community is the easiest way to attract top talent.
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Deena Fidas is the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program.
Today, we’re seeing this quiet ripple effect of the hidden benefits of LGBT inclusion unfolding in offices across corporate America. Plus, the contagious positivity is spreading far beyond the LGBT community. In one office, you might have a lesbian manager who is happy at work knowing she’s earning equal benefits for her family. In the office next door, her co-worker is buoyed to see how welcoming his company is to LGBT folks. He might just be thinking, “Wow, if an openly lesbian manager can bring her whole self to work, I can bring my whole self to work too.” His takeaway is that it’s an environment in which he can thrive.
At the Human Rights Campaign, we had a hunch that the private sector would be key to championing pride in the workplace back in 2002, when we launched the Corporate Equality Index. The index ranks businesses on their treatment of LGBT employees, consumers and investors. We started the campaign during an era in which there was very little legislation moving to further the rights of the LGBT community. The majority of states didn’t have basic employment protection for LGBT workers — something that still stands today. We decided that if we can’t impact change through law, there were other ways we could do it. So we rallied corporate America.
All businesses strive to attract and retain top talent. But sometimes they overlook that part of the formula requires businesses to be fully LGBT inclusive to ensure that they’re competitive, and hiring and promoting the best people for the job. This is especially true if they want to tap into the consumer market of the LGBT community — which has an estimated buying power of $900 billion, according to Washington, D.C.-based marketing company Witeck Communications. Some companies might wonder how to tap into this market. Well, the way not to do it is by consulting a bunch of straight people with no knowledge about the community to come up with a strategy. You must ensure people can bring not only their talents to the table but also their unique experiences as members of the LGBT community.
In the index’s first year, only 13 companies ranked at the top. Today, the number has swelled to 515.
Every company ranked in our index has the opportunity to meet all the criteria — best practices in transgender inclusion, gender identity non-discrimination protections, transgender-inclusive health care coverage, to name a few — and earn a 100 percent score. Some companies really stand out for their commitment. JPMorgan Chase & Co., for example, has ensured there’s full LGBT inclusion — policy by policy, benefit by benefit — since the first year of the index. It was an early adopter of domestic partner benefits and employment protections that covered sexual orientation and gender identity, alongside race, gender and creed. It also visibly supported the Pride & Ally Employee Networking Group. Hallmark has also raised the bar, displaying a first-of-its-kind public respect for gender inclusion with its portfolio of greeting cards.
In the index’s first year, only 13 companies ranked at the top. Today, the number has swelled to 515. We’ve seen tremendous growth across every industry and geography. We’ve seen companies treat employees better, have a visible presence at pride parades and build a more inclusive community.
Are we there yet? No, of course not. But the seeds have been planted and will continue to grow.