The role of business in advancing LGBT workplace equality
In an interview, a Human Rights Campaign Foundation leader explains why “inclusive policies and practices are high priorities at companies that want to remain competitive”
Q: Why does the Human Rights Campaign Foundation publish the annual index?
Fidas: We started the Corporate Equality Index to benchmark companies on corporate policies and practices important to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. In our first survey in 2002, only 13 businesses earned top marks. This year, more than 400 businesses earned top marks.
The index helps ensure inclusive policies and practices are high priorities at companies that want to remain competitive. And the index criteria offer a roadmap to companies looking to become more inclusive. We’ve seen a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go.
Q: What are the most significant findings from the 2016 index?
Fidas: This year we saw major U.S. businesses extend gender-identity protections and transgender-inclusive health care coverage at record rates. The index shows a growing commitment to transgender inclusion that’s very encouraging. Today 87 percent of CEI-rated businesses protect employees on the basis of gender identity, and more than 500 provide critical transgender-inclusive benefits.
Of course, policies do not always translate into genuine inclusion, and we recognize that critical cultural shifts need to take place to foster greater inclusion of the entire LGBT community. Our results indicate that there is still work to be done, and we see huge opportunities in areas like accountability metrics, diversified training, and optional self-identification.
In future iterations of the index, we’ll likely grow our focus on global inclusion to look at how companies foster inclusive environments everywhere for everyone. You’ll see more attention, resources, and structure aimed at fostering an inclusive environment because we know that environment is really what plays into a person’s day-to-day experience in the workplace.
Q: How has Wells Fargo helped in this work?
This is the 13th year in a row that Wells Fargo received a score of 100 on our index. The company has set a laudable standard for LGBT equality in the workplace, and it’s truly become an authentic part of the culture.
We take many of our cues from corporate leaders like Wells Fargo. This past year, Wells Fargo took a visible stand externally and internally with programming and breakthrough marketing that pushed boundaries. That’s an example we want to set with every company we work with. And as a result, Wells Fargo received our highest honor awarded to a company — the HRC Corporate Equality Award.
Q: What about businesses in general?
Fidas: I believe that businesses are on the cutting edge of the work being done to further equality and foster inclusion. Much of the work has happened outside of the courts and legislative sessions, and that work has been tremendously valuable.
We’re proud to work with leading companies that have pushed for equality internally and externally — not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s good business.
Our goal is to help companies implement inclusive policies, benefits, and practices so that every employee, consumer, and investor can bring their whole self to the table. Businesses are weighing in on public policy discussions, promoting diversity and inclusion in national marketing campaigns, and continuing to innovate.