A Bright Spot in Hard Times: LGBTQ Workplace Equality

HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training Mary Beth Maxwell penned a piece for the Huffington Post this week on the release HRC’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index and the progress of LGBTQ workplace inclusion across the country.

It reads, in part:

Many of us are still reeling from the results of the November election as people across the country are uncertain about what the future holds. Calls from LGBTQ community members — about hate crimes, increased bullying in schools, fears about the security of our families and marriages, about our loved ones who are immigrants or Muslim — have been rolling in. What does this new Cabinet Secretary nomination mean? Will my transgender child be safe at school? What about my gay brother who serves in the military? Will all our gains be rolled back?

We are in for some of the most historic fights to defend and expand equality for LGBTQ people that the community has ever faced. But we can draw on our own history to remember we have faced very hard times before and that LGBTQ equality will continue to move forward.

Over the last 15 years the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has worked to transform the institutions of daily lives: fostering schools that welcome our kids, ensuring respectful and affordable healthcare, building inclusive communities whether in sports or places of worship or workplaces across the country.

We made change long before laws or elected leaders were on our side and this work is now more important than ever. Our flagship Corporate Equality Index (CEI) – the premiere survey of LGBT-inclusive policies, practices, and benefits in the workplace – was launched in the darkest of legal days for the LGBTQ community; when Lawrence v. Texas had not yet been decided, when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were the laws of the land, and when lawmakers refused to even pass basic hate crimes protections. But it was in this environment, in 2002, that advocates chose a new path to begin transforming workplaces and building a business case for equality and it has been hugely successful.

This week’s launch of the 15th Corporate Equality Index provided a powerful counterweight to the last year of painful attacks on LGBTQ rights and the dignity of our community. There were 517 major businesses that invested in comprehensive efforts to ensure LGBTQ inclusion in their policies, benefits and practices, earning a 100 percent score. This is the highest number of top-rated businesses in the history of the CEI. In addition, this year saw the largest single-year jump in employers adopting transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, from 511 to 647, including a full half of the Fortune 500. And 82 percent of the Fortune 500 include gender identity protections, up from just 3 percent when the CEI started. Let that sink in for a moment: a large majority of the nation’s largest businesses have proactively identified the need for fairness in the workplace for transgender employees.

This is momentum that no election can undo or stymie.

Read A Bright Spot in Hard Times: LGBTQ Workplace Equality in its entirety here.