In recent years, many corporations in the United States have made significant strides in promoting equality and inclusion in the workplace. These strides – from providing inclusive partner and spousal benefits to benefits that cover gender affirming care – not only create a more welcoming workplace for their LGBTQ+ employees, but also make good business sense.
LGBTQ+ workers who are in companies with LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and culture report higher productivity and job satisfaction, lower turnover and attrition, and increased innovation, collaboration, and connections with their co-workers. With an estimated 7.1% of U.S. adults self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual, creating LGBTQ+ workplace inclusivity in real and impactful ways must be a priority for every employer.
Since 1998, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) has collaborated with thousands of companies representing tens of millions of U.S.-based employees. This work culminated in the HRC Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a tool to assess LGBTQ+ inclusive employment policies, practices, and benefits. From the first edition to the most recent in 2022, the ever-evolving considerations on the road to inclusion have been continuously expanded to promote equality and inclusion for all LGBTQ+ people.
The inaugural edition of the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) included 319 participants, with 13 companies achieving top scores. The 20th-anniversary edition of the CEI now includes over 1,200 participants and more than 800 top scorers. This underscores that over a two-decade time period, not only has the number of companies interested in LGBTQ+ equality rapidly increased, but so has the number of businesses that have overhauled their internal policies and practices to be more equitable and inclusive.
A critical tool
At its core, the CEI builds a foundation upon which employees can safely and authentically show up at work. That’s why it has been and remains a critically valuable tool.
However, the CEI is just one tool to measure and promote LGBTQ+ equality. Though it has been extremely impactful, it is also limited in its scope. Diversity and inclusion policies and practices advanced through tools like the CEI are critical and necessary, but alone they are insufficient to achieve full equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ employees. Meaningful change requires breathing life into these policies and practices in real and tangible ways to reduce stigma and to improve the day-to-day lived reality of LGBTQ+ workers.
It also means ensuring companies speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ public policy efforts, which impact employees in significant ways. It means joining amicus briefs in support of litigation that fights to protect and expand LGBTQ+ rights; joining HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act; vocalizing opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation; and working publicly and behind-the-scenes to beat back bad bills. It is creating cause marketing campaigns and bringing messages of equality and inclusion to customers across the country. And it’s ensuring the products they created are not uniquely harming the LGBTQ+ community.
Although the CEI is the country’s leading tool to measure LGBTQ+ equality, it only works with the dedication and buy-in of industry leaders and small corporations alike to prioritize the protection and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people. The Human Rights Campaign will continue the fight for equality so that every LGBTQ+ person, from the factory floor to the boardroom, can live their life authentically and show up for work as their true, full self.