More companies finding that equality is good for business

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In the twelve years that the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has been producing its Corporate Equality Index, known as “the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees,” the number of companies receiving high marks for its treatment of LGBT employees has been steadily increasing; in 2014, companies hailing from all fifty states were awarded with a perfect score.

The director of HRC’s workplace equality program in Washington, Deena Fidas, told Human Resource Executive, “The writing is on the wall for full, legal equality. Businesses want to be part of that arch of history. At the same time, we’re seeing a significant social, cultural shift.”

Part of the reason for that shift in the professional arena is a practical one: statistics show that equality is good for business. Fidas added, “You have this core group of a couple hundred companies steadily working on this who want to be best in class. It may simply have been a matter of updating benefits or more diversity training, and, this year, they did it.”

To get the highest possible score for LGBT inclusion and support, awarding them the distinction of being included among the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” companies are graded on their equal employment opportunity and employment benefits (65 percent), organizational competency (20 percent) and public engagement (15 percent).

Many of those companies are also making it a point to be out, loud, and proud about their support of the LGBT community. Fidas explained, “There are ways that companies are linking their broader image (to how the company treats LGBT workers), down to actual brands and products. No one loses sight of the power of a visual like a rainbow flag in downtown Louisville.”

Professional services firm Deloitte LLP’s chief inclusion officer, senior partner Deb DeHaas, pointed out that pro-equality benefits and policies are important, but “at the end of the day, it’s all about culture,” she told Human Resource Executive.

Deloitte has been honored for its friendliness to many types of workers; recently it was named among the Top 10 Best Companies for Working Mothers and a Top 10 Company for Multicultural Women in 2013. Their official site states that inclusion is “a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace,” as it “provides us with a diverse workforce that possesses a variety of skills…Our inclusive culture is a source of opportunity, enrichment and new thinking.”

The company keeps tabs on its culture via an annual talent survey distributed to its employees, whose responses are kept anonymous; the surveys include optional questions on demographic information such as sexual and gender identity.

Deloitte has also teamed up with other firms to research the benefits of inclusion and equality in the workplace; their own Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion Managing Principal Christie Smith co-authored a report, Uncovering Talent, with NYU School of Law Professor Kenji Yoshino, “that offers a new approach to achieving inclusion.” As DeHaas put it, “We’re trying to promote an environment where people believe they can bring their authentic selves to work.”

Human resource consulting and outsourcing firm Aon’s global diversity and inclusion efforts leader, Nichole Barnes Marshall, is another professional voice reaffirming that a friendly office environment is key to finding and keeping talented employees that feel valued, and thus inspired to bring their best to their work. The company’s Aon Pride Alliance provides feedback for diversity training for employees at all levels, so the LGBT perspective is understood by everyone.

Aon also works to support LGBT rights within their client companies around the world; Marshall explained, “We position ourselves not only internally to support our colleagues, but externally to support our clients with trying to create that culture, regardless of what’s happening externally. It is well-stated and documented, but it can’t be said enough that the fact is that companies that embrace and leverage inclusion outperform their peers in every category. It not only makes dollars, it makes sense to have an inclusive environment.”

The full 2014 Corporate Equality Index from HRC can be downloaded here.

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