10 best companies to work for

As more and more firms opt to protect and nurture their GLBT employees, The Advocate adds to it’s annual list

BY Todd Henneman

September 26 2004 11:00 PM ET

A lot of U.S.
companies talk about diversity but fall far short of
treating their gay and lesbian employees with fairness and
respect, especially in tough economic times when
management is focused on bolstering the bottom line.
But as we prepared our sixth annual list of 10 good
places for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people
to work, we found that during the past year gays
continued to make significant progress in the
workplace. Several of the companies on our list
expanded their nondiscrimination policies and began to
provide the same benefits to the domestic partners of
gay and lesbian employees that they do to straight
spouses.

Our list is
derived from information provided by the companies, insight
from employees, and research published in the Human Rights
Campaign’s 2004 Corporate Equality Index, which
ranks 379 companies on a scale of 0–100. To
calculate its scores, HRC looked at seven criteria,
including whether the company offers health insurance
to domestic partners, provides gay-inclusive diversity
training, and avoids support for antigay groups. Each
category is given the same weight, and the values are added
to reach the final rating. “Corporate America has
realized that these policies ultimately are good for
their business,” says Kim Mills, HRC’s
education director. “And in many quarters, there is a
sincere commitment to really walking the walk.”

One of this
year’s noteworthy developments is the number of
companies that received perfect scores from HRC, which
awarded 54 scores of 100, a 157% increase over 2003
and a nearly 400% increase over its inaugural index in
2002. Many of those that received perfect scores for the
first time did so by adding the single protection to
their written nondiscrimination policies that caused
them to fall short in previous years: gender identity
and expression. “As big and as important as that
[protection] is for os,” Mills says, “I think
corporate America doesn’t see that as a costly
move, so they were willing to do it.”

The following is
not meant to be a list of the 10 best places to work in
the United States, but rather 10 places that have
enlightened workplace practices and protections.


Agilent Technologies Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif. Revenue: $6.1
billion Employees: 28,000 Fortune 500
ranking: 305 HRC Score: 100

A leader in the
test- and measurement-equipment industry, Agilent was the
original business started by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.
Spun off from Hewlett-Packard Co. in 1999, Agilent has
earned a reputation for its equal treatment of gay
employees. The company offers the same benefits to
same-sex domestic partners as it does to married couples,
including medical insurance, dental insurance, vision
insurance, coverage of a partner’s dependents,
relocation assistance, adoption assistance, and
survivor benefits, among others. “Yes, it’s
true that some of these things cost us money,”
says Greg Morris, an openly gay diversity consultant
at Agilent. “At the same time, you wouldn’t
have that same conversation about providing medical
insurance to a married spouse. There is a certain
sense [within Agilent] that it would be a very genuine
inequity if someone in a domestic-partner situation did not
get these benefits.” Agilent’s diversity
training covers sexual orientation, and each of its
facilities has one of two company-sanctioned gay groups: the
Gay and Lesbian Employee Network and Safe Space. Agilent
also has sponsored pride celebrations and actively
recruits openly gay and lesbian job applicants.


Best Buy Co. Inc.
Richfield, Minn. Revenue: $22.6
billion Employees: 90,000 Fortune 500
ranking: 78 HRC score: 100

The
nation’s leading consumer-electronics retailer has
made remarkable strides not only in the marketplace
but also in its treatment of GLBT employees. Best Buy
has opened 80 stores during the past 18 months,
bringing its total number of retail locations in North
America to more than 780. During that same period the
company introduced medical, dental, and vision
benefits for domestic partners, added sexual orientation and
gender identity or expression to its written
nondiscrimination policy, and sponsored the 2003 Out
and Equal Workplace Summit. The changes are part of
Best Buy growing up as a company, says James Damian, a
senior vice president and executive sponsor of the
company’s two-year-old gay employee group,
People Respecting Individual Differences Equally.
“When these [pro-gay policies] were broached to
the company, there wasn’t any kind of phobia
about it,” he says. PRIDE, located at the
company’s Minnesota headquarters, has been
mentoring newer employee groups. The next goal, says
openly lesbian senior manager for diversity and
multicultural relations Cindy Laughlin, is extending the
group to Best Buy’s regional locations.


ChoicePoint Inc.
Alpharetta, Ga. Revenue: $795
million Employees: 4,200 Fortune 500
ranking: N/A HRC score: 100

You might not
know about ChoicePoint, but it might know about you.
It’s the leading provider of identification-
and credential-verification services, performing more
than 6 million background checks annually. ChoicePoint
also owns and operates the Bode Technology Group, the
private forensic lab that helped identify victims of
the September 11 attacks. The company forbids
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
identity or expression, has offered domestic-partner medical
and dental benefits since 2002, and added vision
coverage this year. ChoicePoint also includes sexual
orientation in its diversity training and provides
corporate funding to its gay employee group, ChoicePoint Gay
and Lesbian Alliance. Through its corporate giving
program, the company supports three AIDS-related
organizations: Project Open Hand, Jerusalem House, and
the Atlanta AIDS Walk.


Cisco Systems Inc.
San Jose, Calif. Revenue: $19 billion
Employees: 34,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 100
HRC score: 100

The
computer-network equipment giant also is a leader in its
fair treatment of gay and lesbian employees and its
charitable support for gay groups. Cisco provides
comprehensive benefits to gay employees and their
partners, including medical, dental, vision, and life
insurance; bereavement leave; relocation assistance;
adoption assistance; and baby gifts to domestic
partners who become parents. In addition, partners of
gay employees may be designated as beneficiaries of 401(k)
life insurance benefits in the event of the
employee’s death. The company’s gay employee
group, GLBT and Advocates, has been meeting for more than
seven years and became a company-sanctioned group in
2003. A gay-supportive “diversity
council” exists at every major company site
worldwide. Cisco also has donated to numerous AIDS
organizations; has been a sponsor of the Gay, Lesbian,
and Straight Education Network’s annual awards gala;
supports the pro-diversity Web site Tolerance.org; and
partners with San Jose’s DeFrank Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender Center.


Citigroup Inc.
New York Revenue: $94.7 billion
Employees: 275,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 8
HRC score: 100

As the
world’s largest financial services firm, it’s
notable that the company has workplace protections
that include a written nondiscrimination policy
encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity or
expression. Sexual orientation also is part of
Citigroup’s employee-training programs:
Managing Inclusion and Respect at Work. Since 2000 the
firm has provided extensive benefits to the partners of gay
and lesbian employees, including medical, dental, and
vision insurance. Citigroup has participated in
Reaching Out, the annual conference for gay and
lesbian MBA students, and sponsored receptions for gay
students at leading business schools. Citigroup Pride
serves as an internal network for GLBT employees, and
the company supports numerous gay rights groups and
advocacy organizations through its foundation.


Dell Inc.
Round Rock, Texas Revenue: $41.4 billion
Employees: 50,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 31
HRC score: 100

Personal computer
maker Dell Inc. recently announced record-breaking,
second-quarter revenue of $11.7 billion. That’s not
surprising for a company that revolutionized the
retail-computer industry by having customers place
factory-direct orders rather than buying from retail
stores. Dell holds its own in its treatment of gay employees
too. The company has a written nondiscrimination
policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity
or expression. The same benefits that are offered to
the straight spouses of employees are extended to the
partners of gay employees, such as medical, dental,
vision, and life insurance. Dell also includes sexual
orientation in its diversity training and is a sponsor
of the annual Out and Equal Workplace Summit.


Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group
San Francisco Revenue: N/A; privately
held Employees: 5,000 Fortune 500
ranking: N/A HRC score: 100

This San
Francisco–based hotelier transformed its industry by
pioneering the boutique hotel concept. Instead of
square buildings filled with cookie-cutter rooms,
Kimpton offers hip hotels, each with its own theme.
Its Hotel Triton, for example, has rooms designed by music
icons Carlos Santana, Graham Nash, and Jerry Garcia.
Kimpton also is the only company in the hotel industry
to receive a perfect score in the 2004 Corporate
Equality Index. The company has offered medical benefits to
domestic partners since 1997. The partners of gay
employees get the same reduced room rate—$50 a
night—as straight spouses do, and the company has a
Web site dedicated to marketing to gay consumers.
Kimpton also plans to expand its “Red Ribbon
Reservation” program, in which guests can ask for
$10 from their bill to be donated to the National AIDS Fund.
“Being based in San Francisco, there’s a
natural tendency to make sure you’re very
inclusive of all the different groups that live
here,” says Andrew Freeman, the
company’s openly gay vice president of public relations.


Miller Brewing Co.
Milwaukee Revenue: $4.8 billion
Employees: 6,500 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A
HRC score: 100

Visit a Miller
facility and you likely will see a posted
nondiscrimination policy signed by the CEO that includes
sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The company has provided medical insurance to gay
domestic partners since 2000 and has since added
dental and vision insurance, bereavement leave, relocation
assistance, and pension survivorship benefits. Miller
regularly advertises in gay publications. And
don’t forget the Miller Lite prime-time television ad
titled “Switcheroo,” in which two women in a
bar send a beer to the table of a handsome man, only
to see him take the hand of his boyfriend. Miller also
has sponsored events for the Wisconsin AIDS Fund, the AIDS
Resource Center of Wisconsin, and the International
Gay Bowling Organization. And it has contributed to
Camp Heartland, a retreat for children and teenagers
living with HIV/AIDS.


Owens Corning
Toledo, Ohio Revenue: $5 billion
Employees: 17,500 Fortune 500 ranking: 350
HRC score: 100

As the company
trademarked the color pink for its home insulation
products, it seems fitting that it treats its gay employees
fairly. Owens Corning’s nondiscrimination
policy includes sexual orientation and gender
identity. It introduced domestic-partner health benefits
this year—even as the company was restructuring
during a bankruptcy. And Owens Corning includes sexual
orientation in its diversity training. The company also
has contributed to the Woodlands, which provides AIDS
education, and David’s House, which helps
people in Ohio living with HIV/AIDS.


PepsiCo Inc.
Purchase, N.Y. Revenue: $27 billion
Employees: 143,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 62
HRC score: 100

The company whose
brands include Pepsi One, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade
easily passed our own “Pepsi challenge.” The
world’s number 2 carbonated soft-drink maker
includes sexual orientation and gender identity or
expression in its nondiscrimination policy. Not only that,
the company has a nondiscrimination “code of
conduct” translated into every language spoken
by its employees worldwide. Domestic partners of PepsiCo
employees can receive medical, dental, vision, and
life insurance; accidental death and dismemberment
insurance; pension beneficiary rights; adoption
assistance; bereavement leave; and access to mental health
counseling. The company also includes sexual
orientation in its diversity training and has a gay
employee group. In June its Quaker Oats division
participated in Chicago’s Citywide Pride, a series of
panel discussions on gay-related topics for employees.
And through its dozens of other brands, PepsiCo has
supported gay pride parades and other gay events
nationwide.

Tags: Commentary

AddThis

READER COMMENTS ()

Quantcast