Welcoming workplaces

In 2005 a record number of Fortune 500 companies are offering protections to gay and lesbian workers and their spouses. Here are 10 shining examples of the best employers

BY Fred Kuhr

September 25 2005 11:00 PM ET

Raytheon Company
Revenue: $20.2 billion Number of
employees: 80,000 worldwide Fortune 500 rank:
103 HRC score: 100

A defense
contractor as a great place for gays to work? Yep.

This year
Raytheon—based in the Boston suburb of
Waltham—became the first aerospace and defense
giant to achieve a rating of 100 on HRC’s Corporate
Equality Index.

The kudos came
after the company decided to add gender identity and
expression to its antidiscrimination policy. “We have
historically supported employees facing transitions,
so this policy change makes our intention and beliefs
regarding inclusion more explicit, and it ensures
consistency across the company,” says Hayward Bell,
chief diversity officer.

The company has
also provided information kits on gender identity and
expression to its leaders and human resources professionals.
“If employees feel included, they are more
likely to reach their potential. It’s a win for
employees and a win for the company,” says Bell.

Raytheon is also
a sponsor of the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, an
annual event focused on making workplaces safer and
equitable for LGBT employees. Louise Young, a senior
software engineer at Raytheon’s Plano, Texas,
campus and the founder of the company’s LGBT
employees network, was the recipient of the
summit’s Out and Equal Workplace Advocates
Trailblazer Award.

“I’ve been a lesbian activist since 1971, and
I became involved in workplace activism in 1993. To me
Raytheon epitomizes what can be achieved,” says
Young, who has a combined 27 years of service at Raytheon
and Texas Instruments, which Raytheon acquired in 1997.
“Imagine a new LGBT employee coming into the
company and finding this kind of visibility and
support.” —F.K.

Sprint Corp.
Revenue: $27 billion Number of employees:
61,000 nationwide Fortune 500 rank: 67
HRC score: 100

Last year HRC
publicly criticized Sprint for insuring employees’
pets but not their same-sex partners. In January,
however, the company rectified the situation and began
offering such benefits. “We’ve been evaluating
[offering domestic-partner benefits] for years, but this
year we took a broader look at it,” Sprint
spokeswoman Jennifer Bosshardt said at the time.
“We have a larger diversity and inclusion strategy.
We believe it attracts, retains, and motivates
employees.”

The
telecommunications giant has also created the Sprint
Managing to Win program, providing 7,000 executives
and managers the tools and skills required to create
inclusive work environments. It is the largest
training initiative in the company’s 105-year
history.

Sprint
established its Diversity Council in 2003—chaired by
chairman and CEO Gary D. Forsee—to oversee its
employee affinity groups, including LGBT workers. The
company also has a supplier diversity program.
Bosshardt believes the decision to offer domestic-partner
benefits will aid the company in obtaining and keeping
relationships with vendors as well as customers.
—F.K.

Viacom Inc.
Revenue: $22.5 billion Total number of
employees: 31,653 Fortune 500 rank: 69
HRC score: 100

There’s no
shortage of gays on Viacom programming—MTV’s
The Real World and Showtime’s The L
Word
and Queer as Folk are just a few of
the programs that provide gay visibility. The New York
City–based conglomerate recently even launched Logo,
a 24-hour basic cable channel devoted to LGBT content.

More important,
however, are its internal policies. In November 2004,
Viacom granted gay and lesbian couples the same pension
benefits as married couples. In addition, its
affirmative action policy includes wording that
addresses gender identity and expression. “We work
with the Human Rights Campaign,” says
spokeswoman Julia Phelps. “All of our programs
include programs for same-sex partners, such as planning
weddings, filing tax returns, etcetera.”

Viacom has had a
“very close” relationship with Gay
Men’s Health Crisis, and the company’s
human resources representatives have spoken on a panel
for transgender people, Phelps adds. “Overall, we
consider the gay community another valuable source to
recruit from,” she says.

Viacom does not
have a specific LGBT employee group but doesn’t feel
the need to start one. “Our employees are
comfortable expressing themselves and influencing
policies without a group structure,” says Phelps.
—G.H.

Washington Mutual
Revenue: $11.7 billion Total number of
employees: 52,579 Fortune 500 rank: 131
HRC score: 100

Three years ago
Tom Morgan was being recruited by Seattle-based
Washington Mutual, but he and his partner were reluctant to
leave Boston. The gay-friendly attitude of the
financial services company during the wooing process
made all the difference.

“They
arranged for a gay Realtor to take us around, and it was
really a first-class experience,” says Morgan,
senior vice president of technology solutions.
“The manager of human resources provided me with a
great overview of domestic-partner benefits, and I met
several other gay senior-level executives, and they
provided a lot of help. I enjoy coming to work each
day.”

Washington Mutual
began offering health insurance to same-sex domestic
partners in 1999 and includes sexual orientation and gender
identity in its nondiscrimination policies.

In addition, the
company regularly sponsors LGBT events, including pride
festivals in New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Florida,
and Palm Springs and Long Beach, Calif., as well as
the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film
Festival. —G.H.

Wyndham International
Revenue: $943.8 million Total number
of employees: 18,500 Fortune 500 ranking: NA
HRC score: 100

Wyndham
International is one of the largest brands in the lodging
industry. In 2004 the company had close to $1 billion in
sales, with millions of guests passing through its 150
properties in the United States and abroad.

The company
actively courts gay and lesbian travelers—it was one
of the first chains to have an advertising campaign
targeted at gay consumers. The company also regularly
donates to various national gay rights groups.
“Outreach to the gay community is very important to
us,” says spokeswoman Amy Engler.
“We’ve got lots of important programs we
continue to support for that reason.”

Wyndham’s
success with gays and lesbians is one of the few bright
spots in its financial performance of late. The
company lost close to $500 million last year and was
recently acquired by the Blackstone Group, a private
equity firm with broad real estate investments.

Still, thanks to
the company’s generous gay-friendly benefits,
treatment of LGBT employees, and outreach to gays, the
Orlando Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa in Florida was
named the official hotel of Gay Day 2004 and 2005 at
Walt Disney World. “Not only does Gay Day have a
substantial impact on the region’s tourism by
bringing hundreds of thousands of guests, but it also
focuses on an important and growing market for
Wyndham,” says Gregory J. Hauenstein, area director
of operations and general manager at Wyndham Palace
Resort and Spa. - M.H.

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