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With Equality Act Languishing, Companies Need to Step Up


Since the federal government won't be banning anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination any time soon, corporations and businesses need to pick up the slack.

You can be legally fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity in 26 U.S. states. No federal law, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1965, exists to protect LQBTQ employees from workplace discrimination.

That is the issue at the heart of three U.S. Supreme Court cases scheduled for 2020. Should we add protections for LGBTQ employees to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965? At Pipeline, our answer is a resounding "yes!" You should not be fired because of who you love or how you identify.

From an economic perspective, the data supports our culture -- we have yet to find one economic model showing how discrimination leads to positive economic outcomes. We value the diversity of our labor force, and on behalf of Pipeline, I urge more companies to follow suit. Because when LGBTQ employees get left behind, so to do their families, their businesses, and our economy. In fact, ensuring the inclusion of LGBTQ employees could add $9 billion to the U.S. economy.

Businesses move notoriously slow. Innovation disrupts the status-quo, and cultural overhauls are such massive undertakings that a McKinsey report refers to them as "the third and deepest level" of organizational change.

It's this type of change that businesses must stay privy to as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce. Less than half of young people identify as straight and teens are currently pushing for non-binary options on drivers licenses. At 61 million strong in the U.S., Generation Z is slated to be the most-diverse and best-educated generation.

To tap into this rising talent pool, businesses will need to create more inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ employees. (More on how to do this plus additional recommendations to follow.) We are facing a global labor shortage of up to 40 million workers by 2020, and inclusive work environments give organizations a competitive advantage in a tightening labor market.

Additionally, businesses should recognize the impact their LGBTQ employees have on financial performance. In original research performed across 4,161 companies in 29 countries, Pipeline found a 1- 2 percent increase in revenue for every 10 percent increase in gender equity.

And when diverse teams problem solve, they bring their unique perspectives of viewing the world to the table--increasing the number of solution spaces for them to explore. These teams help mitigate errors in group predictions and complex problem-solving by compensating for information gaps that exist in teams of similar backgrounds.

The business imperative is clear. Companies risk getting left behind when they don't directly address the rights and perspectives of their LGBTQ employees.

The LGBTQ community is no stranger to workplace bias. In fact, one-fifth of LGBTQ employees have experienced bias based on gender identity or sexual orientation when applying to jobs.

For example, a woman perceived as LGBTQ based on her resume alone is 30 percent less likely to receive an interview than compared to a woman perceived as heterosexual. And if she lists a leadership role in an LGBTQ organization on her resume, her odds of being contacted by an employer drop by 32.5 percent. In a study comparing pairs of female job applicants, where one woman in the pair was transgender, researchers found the transgender applicant did not receive a job offer from 11 out of 24 employers while the non-transgender applicant did.

U.S. Census Data shares another side of the story. Married lesbian couples experience a 6 percent pay gap compared to married heterosexual couples: their median household incomes are $80,755 and $85,581, respectively. Poverty rates show the impact of this pay gap, too: 7.6 percent of lesbian couples live in poverty compared to 5.7 percent of heterosexual couples.

Troubling still is that nearly 19.2 percent of children in households with female same-sex couples live in poverty. A child's future earnings, their likelihood of attending college, and even whether or not they become teen parents are all influenced by a parent's income. We must take action -- for this generation and for generations to come.

Companies have the choice, right now, to take action and create more inclusive workplaces for their LGBTQ employees. The following recommendations provide a good start:

1. Track LGBTQ demographics in diversity and inclusion data.

These data would further the EEO-1 changes made by President Obama set to go into effect on September 30, 2019. The policy requires employers to submit pay data by race, ethnicity, gender, and job category. Companies should take the EEO-1 policy a step further and track LGBTQ demographics to ensure their equitable pay and representation.

2. Ensure the inclusion of LGBTQ employees through the lens of gender equity and intersectionality.

One size does not fit all. Companies must understand how intersectionality affects segments of their workforce. On average, when two or more diverse classes intersect (such as gender and race/ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation), those individuals with intersecting identities are farther behind than women in general. Look no further than the gender pay gap for Black and Latina women as proof: Black women earn 61 cents on the dollar and Latinas earn 53 cents on the dollar.

3. Advocate for federal and state laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2020, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to include protections for LGBTQ employees to Title VII of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Organizations can start advocating now for including these protections. Doing so would increase opportunities for LGBTQ employees nationwide. They can also advocate for the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act which would add LGBTQ protections to Title VII.

4. Provide gender-transition resources for employees.

More companies can join the 22 percent of U.S. employers who already cover gender-reassignment and affirmation surgery to their employees. They should also include coverage for pre- and post-surgery mental health counseling as well as prescription drug therapy.

5. Chose caregiver leave, not maternity or paternity leave.

Maternity and paternity leave are ripe with bias. The gender-neutral option, caregiver leave, provides employees with the most equitable opportunities for them and their families.

Our future labor force is demanding that we step up and embrace equity for all. Valuing the diversity of our LGBTQ community is not only the right thing for businesses to do, it's also the smart thing.

Pipeline-equity-katica-royx100Katica Roy is a corporate executive and human capital veteran and CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline Equity, an award-winning SaaS company that leverages artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity.

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