2019 was a historic year for LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace, according to the findings of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). At the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 21, HRC president Alphonso David announced that a record-breaking 686 of America’s top companies and law firms received scores of 100 for their efforts to “advance vital and rigorous policies and practices to protect their LGBTQ workers—both at home and abroad.” The latest CEI designates more companies than ever before a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality, including 214 Fortune 500 companies and 123 of American Lawyer Magazine’s top 200 law firms.
The CEI is the nation’s most trusted measurement of workplace inclusion for the LGBTQ community, assessing companies on how their policies, benefits, practices, and cultures advance equality and protection for LGBTQ employees. Last year’s CEI saw an impressive 572 companies receive perfect scores, but this year’s significant jump demonstrates an even greater shift.
At a time when experts increasingly agree that an inclusive culture is crucial to a business’s success, these companies prove that “equality is good for business.” According to the CEI, “Being an LGBTQ-inclusive employer is good for recruitment, retention, engagement and—ultimately—the bottom line.” The CEI found that the 686 employers with perfect scores represent 12.4 million employees nationally, 11.9 million globally, and earn an estimate of $12.9 trillion in combined revenue.
Key Findings by Criteria
The HRC Corporate Equality Index scores employers on their efforts to “create greater equity for LGBTQ workers and their families in the form of comprehensive policies, benefits, and practices”. Those scores are further divided into three pillars of criteria. An employer’s CEI score is the total of their scores for all three criteria.
Below is a breakdown of each criterion, along with key findings for each.
1. Nondiscrimination policies (30 points out of 100). The CEI scores employers’ nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity across all business units. These policies help to ensure “equal opportunity for all employees; diverse talent acquisition and retention for broader economic growth; and [keep] the employer apace with changing legal and public opinion landscapes.”
The 2020 CEI found that 99% of rated employers provide employment protections based on sexual orientation and that 98% provide employment protections based on gender identity—both in the U.S. and globally. This particular area has seen the most rapid growth of any other in the CEI. In 2002, when the CEI began, a mere 5% of employers protected on the basis of gender identity. A 94-point increase in 18 years is astonishing. 91% of the Fortune 500 companies in the CEI provide gender identity protections.
2. Equal benefits (30 points out of 100). To be considered LGBTQ-inclusive, employers must provide equitable benefits for LGBTQ employees and their families. Inclusive benefits packages are essential to the acquisition and retention of diverse employees and are intrinsic to the concept of “equal compensation for equal work.”
79% of CEI-rated employers provide equal spousal and partner health care benefits, which is especially important given that employer-provided health insurance is the largest source of medical coverage in the U.S. Furthermore, 89% of CEI-rated employers provide at least one health care benefit that is inclusive of transgender employees. This entails benefits that promote the health and well-being of transgender individuals.
3. Organizational competency in LGBTQ inclusion (40 points out of 100). This final criterion concerns the culture of inclusion that goes beyond equal benefits and protections. It encompasses the concrete, systemic measures an employer enacts to promote genuine inclusion, educate employees, and hold the organization accountable. According to the CEI, organizational competency programs are necessary because “policy does not equal practice, and despite progress, nearly 50% of LGBT[Q] workers nationwide remain closeted on the job.”
HRC scores employers on the prevalence and availability of their training initiatives, the metrics by which they hold senior leadership accountable for meeting diversity and inclusion goals, and the presence of LGBTQ/Allies employee groups and diversity councils. The 2020 CEI found that 90% of rated employers offer a robust set of practices to support organizational LGBTQ diversity competency.
Lastly, to demonstrate organizational competency, a business must also “positively engage the external LGBTQ community.” According to the report, CEI-rated businesses “have extensive programs to engage with key markets and the communities in which they operate. Public commitment in the CEI is measured through…marketing, advertising and recruitment efforts, philanthropic contributions, LGBTQ supplier diversity and public policy weigh-in. Additionally, the CEI includes a set of standards around foundational giving to fully align a business’s actions with its core values and to raise the bar for corporate social responsibility.” The 2020 CEI found that 93% of rated employers demonstrate at least three efforts of public commitment to the LGBTQ community and that 82% have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive contractor/supplier non-discrimination standards and philanthropic giving guidelines.
Now in its 18th year, the HRC Corporate Equality Index is more than just a measurement of corporate America’s evolution towards LGBTQ inclusion. It is a tool for introspection and growth—a set of standards employers can use to redefine their practices following the changing tides. “These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do -- it is also the best business decision. In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “…businesses understand their LGBTQ employees and customers deserve to be seen, valued, and respected not only at work but in every aspect of daily life.”
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