A More Compatible Environment
Jeff wants to expand his business. He wants to open a second location, somewhere on the East Coast. He has some sites in mind and is being courted by others. When he meets with local legislators and Chambers of Commerce to discuss specific locations, Jeff asks them what the “compatible cultural and community environment” is in their locale.
For those who are able to read the tea leaves, this question gets to a deeper level than most. The legislators and Chambers of Commerce take a collective gulp and with a quick glace to each other, they begin to explain how their city or state is favorable to the LGBT community. Their reply determines how much further Jeff Bezos continues his interview for an East Coast “HQ2” for Amazon.
Some locations just do not have a chance at being the lucky winner of a new campus that entails eight million square feet of office and warehouse space, bring in a $5 billion capital investment and hire up to 50,000 people.
The locations that should just pack up their Powerpoint and go home include Georgia and likely North Carolina. Georgia has been debating legislation that would reduce funding for same-sex couple adoptions. In a twisted bit of logic, the sponsor of this bill, state Senator William T. Ligon, Jr., declared that the bill was not discriminatory. In fact, it would help children because religious adoption agencies would close down if they were forced to accommodate same-sex couples. Cross Georgia off the list.
North Carolina presents its own set of obstacles to enticing HQ2 within its bounds. HB2, the infamous “bathroom bill” that North Carolina enacted and subsequently repealed, still exhibits some fallout. The repeal bill was a half-hearted attempt to please both its detractors and its proponents. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, working with (or is that against?) a Republican-majority state legislature, reached a compromise that satisfies no one. It retracts the mandate of using the rest room that matches your birth gender, but it prohibits cities from enacting their own non-discriminatory ordinances. It is doubtful that Jeff will expand into the Tarheel State. He will find a better place.
The Human Rights Campaign each year grades employers across the country for their efforts and policies that promote equality and inclusion for their employees. There are many criteria which serve as the parameters of high grades. As noted by Chad Griffin, president of the HRC Foundation, 609 employers scored a grade of 100 in 2018—a record number. In addition, “the number of employers offering transgender-inclusive health care coverage leapt from 647 last year to 750 this year, including 58% of the Fortune 500-ranked businesses.” This represents incredible advances in the corporate world for equality in sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2002, there were thirteen companies that scored a 100.
Interestingly enough, there is an inverse list compiled each year of the Worst Companies. Various sources through the years have compiled these lists. On the website for “the balance small business,” we read, “Few organizations are brave enough to release ‘worst’ lists. However, Glassdoor.com is one organization that dared to compile and make public a ‘Worst Companies to Work For’ list beginning in 2008.” However, they stopped publishing this list after 2009. 24/7 Wall St. began its own Worst List starting in 2012. More than half of the companies on the 2015 Worst List are retail companies. The criteria for these lowly rankings are not necessarily tied to LGBT issues.
According to Logo, “LGBT consumers represent an estimated buying power of $917 billion. [In addition,] 71% of them are more likely to support a brand after seeing an ad that reflects their experience.” A few brief narratives on several of the top ten companies show examples of steps taken to be equal and inclusive. Hilton earned the top spot on Logo’s list by having gay couples in their advertisements. Hilton advertises “Stay Hilton, Go Out,” and tailors vacation packages and travel tips to LGBT persons.
Marriott not only offers specific services to LGBT travelers, but works to protect the community as it promotes equality in non-profits and advocates for LGBT-friendly legislation. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson spoke out against HB2 in North Carolina as part of ongoing opposition to laws that threaten LGBT Americans. And then Macy’s has made its mark in the LGBT community by prominently featuring LGBT couples in ads and as spokespersons at their events across the country.
An open invitation is extended to readers to share their stories of encounters in the corporate world, both good and bad. Whether you are/were employed there, or were a customer there, your stories will contribute to a follow-up article on Corporate Equality and Inclusion.
Please use the email listed here. We will not return to the days of open discrimination. We will not accept the rejection by those who claim “religious freedom.” We will, instead, honor everyone as a valued person, in the workplace and in our homes. ▼