Welcoming workplaces

By Fred Kuhr

Originally published on Advocate.com September 26 2005 12:00 AM ET

As state and
local governments consider antigay ballot initiatives in
2005, companies are making their workplaces gay-friendlier.

The Advocate has put together its seventh
annual list of 10 great places for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender people to work. We pored over
information provided by the companies and their
employees, and we were aided by the Human Rights
Campaign’s 2005 Corporate Equality Index, which was
released in September. “The report balances the
discussion the country is having about equality for
GLBT people,” says Daryl Herrschaft, director of
HRC’s Workplace Project and author of the
index. “While we may be losing at the ballot
box, the business community is more and more on the side of
fairness and equality.”

Herrschaft notes
that the number of companies that scored a perfect 100
jumped from 56 last year to 101 this year, and more
companies are contacting HRC wanting to score 100.

Adds HRC
president Joe Solmonese: “While LGBT people struggle
for equality under the law, corporations are filling
the gaps where governments have left Americans
vulnerable.”

Keep in mind that
the following list is not meant to signify the top 10
best places for gay employees but is a sampling of 10
workplaces that understand how pro-gay policies make
for happier, more productive employees as well as a
stronger bottom line.

Gap Inc.
Revenue: $16.3 billion Number of employees:
Over 150,000 Fortune 500 rank: 130 HRC
score: 100

To be sure, Gap
Inc. is a retail behemoth, owning the Old Navy and Banana
Republic brands, but it has not forgotten its socially
progressive San Francisco roots. The company’s
antidiscrimination policy includes both sexual
orientation and gender identity. The policy applies to
employees, applicants, customers, and business
partners (including independent contractors, vendors,
and suppliers). Gap has an explicit zero-tolerance
policy toward discrimination.

Domestic partners
of employees are eligible for the same benefits
coverage as spouses of legally married employees, including
medical, dental, and vision coverage.

Additionally, Gap
has made donations through the Gap Foundation to many
gay and lesbian organizations. It has also donated to
HIV/AIDS organizations such as the San Francisco AIDS
Foundation, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Project
Open Hand, and the Richmond Foundation. —F.K.

General Mills
Revenue: $12.5 billion Number of
employees: 27,500 Fortune 500 rank: 197
HRC score: 100

Betty Crocker
might be a character associated with happy homemakers of
the 1950s, but she’s come a long way. And so has her
company, General Mills, which this year added gender
identity to its written antidiscrimination policy,
earning it a perfect score in HRC’s Corporate
Equality Index.

Betty Crocker
even lent her name to the company’s gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender employees’ group,
Betty’s Family (a General Mills twist on the
phrase “Friends of Dorothy”).

“This is a
great company,” says gay employee Lee Anderson,
manager of state and local government relations at the
Minnesota-based corporation and a member of
Betty’s Family since he started working at General
Mills four years ago. “I feel very lucky
working for a company that values diversity the way
General Mills does.”

Betty’s
Family is one of seven diversity networks at the company;
others include the Black Champions Network, the
American Indian Council, and the Women’s Forum.
Also, a dedicated group of educators known as the
Diversity Cadre conducts sensitivity training and sponsors
events aimed at fostering awareness of cultural
differences. Special councils are also active in
championing the need for diversity throughout the company.

General Mills
added sexual orientation to its antidiscrimination policy
in the early 1990s. The company has offered domestic-partner
benefits—including medical, dental, and life
insurance—for same-sex couples since 1999.

General Mills
also supports local and regional gay and lesbian groups and
activities such as the Rainbow Families Conference, the Twin
Cities Pride festival, and District 202, a gay youth
center in Minneapolis. The company is a local sponsor
of HRC. —F.K.

GlaxoSmithKline
Revenue: $37.2 billion Total number of
employees: 100,000 Fortune 500 rank: NA
HRC score: 100

This
pharmaceutical and health care company may be based in the
United Kingdom, but its U.S. operations—in
Philadelphia and North Carolina—are
gay-friendly.

In 2000 the
company began offering benefits to same-sex couples, and its
North Carolina office has a popular support group for gay
workers that holds social events and helps with
relocation and other aspects of work and home life.

“They meet
regularly and are a pretty active group,” says
Patricia Seif, a company spokeswoman.

GSK, which
currently sells eight HIV/AIDS medications, controls an
estimated 7% of the world’s pharmaceutical market.
And one of GSK’s major community undertakings
is its Positive Action program, a global partnership
with HIV/AIDS communities that works to provide more
effective HIV education and prevention as well as enhanced
care, support, and treatment for those living with or
affected by the virus. In April, GSK contributed $1
million for a project to help reduce the stigma and
discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS in Mexico.
—Greg Hernandez

Kaiser Permanente
Revenue: $28 billion Number of
employees: 153,000, plus 12,000 physicians
Fortune 500 rank: NA HRC score: 100

As the
nation’s largest nonprofit HMO, Kaiser Permanente has
a diverse membership in nine states and the District
of Columbia. That means the company hires its fair
share of gay staff and doctors. “Members want to
see people who look like them, talk like them, and
understand their culture,” says John Edmiston,
a community relations manager for the Oakland,
Calif.–based corporation.

Edmiston is a
former president and current council member of KP Pride:
Northern California LGBT Staff Association. Each of the
organization’s regions has its own KP Pride
group. KP Pride was formed in 1993 as a vehicle for
gay and lesbian staff to lobby for domestic-partner
benefits.

Not much lobbying
was needed. The national office quickly approved a
policy allowing nonmarried partners access to health
insurance. Kaiser Permanente added sexual orientation
to its written nondiscrimination policy in 1994 and
added gender identity in 2004. The company has a
national diversity department, a national diversity council,
and regional diversity councils.

Kaiser Permanente
markets directly to gay health care consumers through
magazine advertising as well as community outreach at venues
such as local pride celebrations. The HMO also keeps
lists of providers who are not only open to but
interested in seeing LGBT clients. “So if you are
looking for a physician you can feel comfortable
with,” says Edmiston, “you can call
us.” —F.K.

Olivia Cruises and Resorts
Revenue: $14.4 million Total number of
employees: 35 Fortune 500 rank: NA HRC
score: 100

In 2002 Olivia
Cruises sold just under $7 million in exclusively gay
travel packages. Last year the company more than doubled
that revenue, and 98% of Olivia’s travelers
report that they would use the service again.
“Our groups are not mixed in with other groups.
It’s a 100% gay experience,” says Amy
Errett, chief executive officer of San
Francisco–based Olivia.

This type of
travel is important because it allows many closeted gays and
lesbians to truly be out during the trip, often for the
first time. As a result of this dramatic experience, a
special bond forms between Olivia travelers and the
company.

Olivia also
stands as a leader in terms of catering to the needs of its
employees, offering a complete range of standard benefits
for employees and partners as well as some interesting
twists: Olivia matches up to $50 in monthly public
transit costs, raffles off free parking, and takes the
entire staff out to lunch on a regular basis.

From its humble
beginnings as a record label during the 1970s, Olivia
continues to look forward to the future, planning a
retirement community, a broad-based rewards and
discount network, and continued promotion of special
events like its lesbian film festival and adventure vacation
packages. —Mike Hudson

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.

In good companies

In the past six
years The Advocate has chosen 75 other firms as
good companies for gay and lesbian employees. All remain on
the list except for three. Fannie Mae was removed
after its corporate foundation contributed to antigay
organizations, including a $50,000 donation to the
Traditional Values Coalition. Donna Karan International was
removed when it fell to a 57 rating on HRC’s
Corporate Equality Index in 2004. Mobil fell off the
list in 2002 after its domestic-partner policy was rescinded
when the company merged with Exxon. Here are the remaining
companies that are still good places to work:

Agilent
Technologies Inc. AOL Time Warner
AT&T Aetna American Airlines
American Express Apple Avaya
Bank One Bausch & Lomb Ben and
Jerry’s Best Buy Co. Inc.
Borders Group Capital One Financial
Charles Schwab Cingular Wireless
ChoicePoint Inc. Chubb Corp. Cisco
Systems Inc. Citigroup Inc. Deutsche
Bank Eastman Kodak Co. Ford Motor
Co. FleetBoston Financial General
Motors Gillette Hewlett-Packard
Hyatt Hotels IBM Intel J.P.
Morgan Chase Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant
Group Lehman Brothers Levi Strauss
& Co. Lillian Vernon Limited
Brands (The Limited) Lucent Technologies
Metropolitan Life Insurance Miller Brewing
Co. Mitchell Gold Merrill Lynch
Morrison and Foerster Motorola
NCR Nike Oracle Owens
Corning Pacific Gas and Electric Corp.
PepsiCo Inc. Pfizer Polaroid
Prudential Quark Inc. Reebok
Replacements Ltd. S.C. Johnson Sara
Lee Scholastic Shell Oil
Starbucks Subaru of America Sun
Microsystems Texas Instruments United
Airlines Verizon Wainwright Bank and
Trust The Walt Disney Co. Wells
Fargo Working Assets Worldspan
Xerox