Being Gay-Friendly Enhances Corporations’ Bottom Lines
New York's business leaders gathered at the Union Square W Hotel in Manhattan on the evening of Oct. 23 to announce Prudential as the winner of the 2013 Corporate Equality Ally Award, for receiving a 100 percent rating on the Human Right Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for the past nine years. But many noted that being inclusive and welcoming to the LGBT community is not only the right thing to do morally; it's also good for business.
"Look at the changing demographics in our society, look at the power of the LGBT community: it's imperative, not only morally but business-wise and demographics-wise. It's just the right thing to do in every respect," said Prudential's newly-appointed Chief Diversity Officer Michele Meyer-Shipp, who accepted the honor on behalf of her company.
Meyer-Shipp noted that it was particularly touching for her, as the parent of a gender-variant child, to help make corporations, schools and homes across the country more welcoming.
"I honestly have to say that it's because of organizations like the HRC that I as a parent have been able to really learn, be educated myself, and spread that message across communities, to schools, corporate companies and to other parents and families. It's really critical," she told EDGE.
Meyer-Shipp said that Prudential's employee resource group EAGLES [Employee Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals & Transgenders] had helped create a climate of acceptance, and made the company competitive. Soon, the company will launch their first-ever LGBT financial experience site, a national survey of America's LGBT community to discover their financial services needs.
"The EAGLES organization has been the longest-standing business resource at Prudential, and it's through their efforts that we're able to identify where to go to find the diverse talent we're looking for, in the event that we can't find them in more traditional sources," said Meyer-Shipp. "And then once we recruit that talent, it's key that we work with our business resource groups to make sure we are caring for the needs of the community and that we're helping with the right way with development, retention, promotion opportunity and overall culture so that the employees feel comfortable being engaged."
HRC Gala Co-Chair Jo Doyle noted that in addition to honoring Prudential, they were also honoring five companies from the greater New York metropolitan area that have garnered an 100 percent rating on the CEI for the last ten years: Aetna, Alcatel-Lucent, Eastman Kodak, JPMorgan Chase and Xerox.
"Every year, HRC raises the bar on what it takes to reach 100 percent," said Doyle.
"This is the most challenging CEI because of the transgender equality," noted Rivers. "It gives us a guide to see what organizations are looking out for our best interests. The CEI rating is important because it allows companies to attract talent and hold on to that talent. And it’s important to all of us that we’re represented in the workplace."
"If people feel they’re being treated unfairly, they’re not going to be productive in their work, and they’re not going to stay there very long," added Doyle. "And so the companies are going to lose good talent and the best potential candidates. Other than the fact that it’s actually wrong to have discrimination on any level, it’s the right thing that people need to do. Some companies are better than others, whereas some unfortunately still rate zero. And we’re working to get those up. HRC will work with any company that wants to become more encompassing to the LGBT community."
HRC in the Workplace
For HRC’s CEI, 2012 marked a milestone: 10 years of rating America’s top corporations and charting the dramatic changes in the way companies approach their LGBT employees. This can encompass everything from adding sexual orientation to a company’s non-discrimination policies to providing full access to healthcare for transgender employees. HRC doesn’t just set the standards to be achieved; it provides companies with resources to meet these goals.
Deputy Director of Public Education and Outreach Deena Fidas said that HRC’s programs were important not only to raise LGBT visibility, but also to fill in the gaps where legislators have failed our community by neglecting to pass non-discrimination legislation.
"No matter what happens in Congress, after Election Night in two weeks, we’re going to have a big push for a historic executive order to ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to federal contractors with an inclusive non-discrimination policy," said Fidas. "This will send a very good message to the next President that this is priority for the LGBT community."
In 2010, Time Warner Cable won the Corporate Equality Award. Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Time Warner Inc. Lisa Garcia Quiroz spoke about a time when there were no gay couples on TV, and when her lesbian co-worker’s partner was not invited to corporate functions. Times have changed, said Quiroz.
"As a media company, we are responsible for how all of us think and view each other and groups of people, and I’m proud to say that over a 20 year period, our company has made an extraordinary effort of really including and genuinely depicting LGBT community in our magazines, in our television shows and in our movies," said Quiroz. "In addition to that, there’s a very strong effort to make sure it was a fair and equal place to work."
To make it easier for consumers to work with LGBT-friendly companies, the HRC has released a guide, "Buying for Workplace Equality 2012," to companies, products and services that support LGBT workplace inclusion. This pocket-sized book provides an extensive list of companies and products, color-coded by green, yellow, and red (the least LGBT-friendly) to indicate workplace equality scores. It is divided into 19 categories from restaurants to retailers to automotive companies, to let people more easily put their money back into companies that support our community.
"The HRC and our extraordinarily committed and vocal LGBT employee group have been unbelievably important in making us a better company, and to continue to make us a better employer." said Quiroz. "The HRC index is not just a nice thing to have, it is a revolutionary tool to ensure that corporate America is responsive to this community."
For more information about HRC’s CEI, visit http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index