This year has been a benchmark year for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, with incredible progress made toward claiming equality under the law and in public opinion -- from the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell decision affirming marriage equality, to voters in Ireland embracing the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The private sector is pulling its weight as well, and in the absence of federal or state employment protections, corporate America has stepped up and put into place its own inclusive nondiscrimination policies. In fact, 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies today provide explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 75 percent on the basis of gender identity, a historic high. Sixty-seven percent offer same-sex partner benefits, another record.
Alongside this year's many triumphs has come an elevated awareness of the remaining disparity between "what is" and "what should be" for the LGBT community.
* While transgender visibility and attention may be at an all-time high in the media, so is discrimination and violence aimed at transgender people;
* LGBT colleagues and citizens in America and around the world still live under a fractured legal landscape without the full federal nondiscrimination protection when it comes to employment, housing, credit, and public services;
* It is still illegal to identify as LGBT in far too many places around the globe, even punishable by death in several countries.
This needs to change.
As a company, Dow has nondiscrimination policies; however, our employees live in the communities around us. We believe, as do many other major companies around the world, that the public square in its entirety must reflect those same policies. For cities and states that don't get on board, talent will migrate, and as a corollary, investment, competitive advantage and economic prosperity. Employees and citizens must be treated fairly and equally -- unequivocally -- at work and in the communities in which they live. This is not an either/or conversation, and only when we realize both and do so without exception have we truly set the standard for full inclusion.
That is why Dow supported the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality, denounced religious-based discriminatory legislation in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and urged Houstonians to vote yes for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Dow is proud to have been the first company to publically support passage of the federal Equality Act in the United States, a bill introduced this past summer with the intent to finally solve these critical gaps in federal protections of LGBT Americans. The legislation would provide basic protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, because no one should be fired, evicted from their home, or denied services because of who they are.
Companies depend on the talent, dedication and creativity of their employees. We prosper when all of our employees can bring their whole selves to work and not have to spend their productive potential or mental capacity on hiding who they are. I assure you, these are not just platitudes; there are ample data that clearly support this ideal.
The Human Rights Campaign's 2014 study "The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion" found that engagement of LGBT employees suffers by up to 30 percent in unwelcoming workplaces. With engagement comes productivity, and loss of neither is good for the individual or the business.
Similarly, Out Now's Global LGBT 2020 study found that companies similar to Dow in size and geographic reach, for example, stand to save millions of dollars annually in recruiting costs alone, when inclusive policies are in place.
An inclusive company and society transcends quiet tolerance of difference and cultivates what we all desire in our places of work -- to be valued for what we bring to the table. A culture that strives to foster inclusion, celebrates differences, and respects and welcomes everyone unites its people -- enabling individuals and families to thrive, businesses to prosper, and economies to grow. It's just that simple.
This week, Dow is proud to be honored by the Human Rights Campaign as a "Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality" in its annual Corporate Equality Index, the nation's premier benchmarking report for corporate LGBT-inclusive policies and practices. For 11 consecutive years, Dow has earned this designation through a rigorous review of our workforce policies, benefits, and practices aimed at LGBT equality.
It is a high bar to meet a perfect score on the HRC's Corporate Equality Index, and each year businesses strive to meet the increasingly stringent criteria -- because it creates competitive advantage and quite simply, it's the right thing to do. While many of America's leading corporations have adopted LGBT-friendly policies and practices, too many global lawmakers have not. It is our firm belief and practice that wherever we do business, LGBT protections are standard.
Today, we stand with more than 20 other major businesses partnering with the Human Rights Campaign on a global business coalition to share this message of LGBT inclusion around the world.
We believe that a greater commitment by global businesses to LGBT-inclusive workplace policies and practices will make them more competitive and better places to work for all employees. We believe that these global businesses can serve as the conduits for real change in the communities in which they operate around the globe.
We've witnessed firsthand the positive impact that benchmarking surveys such as the Corporate Equality Index can have. And we are proud to stand with the HRC and other global businesses as they inaugurate their global CEI for the betterment of our workplace and our society the world over.
JAMES FITTERLING is the vice chairman and chief operating officer of the Dow Chemical Company.