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Pathways to

Pathways to


Despite challenging times on the nation's economic front, employers are more gay-friendly than ever before

Work is a serious issue for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. But choosing the right job is often a complicated task, especially for those who aren't part of the straight world. Who, after all, wants to work in a homophobic environment?

Especially now, with the U.S. economy on tenterhooks and company after company laying off employees, gay people may not feel like they are in the driver's seat when it comes to choosing the right business setting.

There is some good news, however. This year has seen steady advances for gay people in corporate environments. Today, according to the Human Rights Campaign, 146 of U.S. Fortune 500 companies have same-sex domestic-partner benefits and 295 have written nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation. What's more, five U.S. Fortune 500 companies now officially acknowledge transgendered workers in their nondiscrimination policies--improving on 2000's three.

"Generally, while it may be less of a buyer's market in terms of people's ability to pick and choose as a result of the economy, we continue to see rapid progress with nondiscrimination policies and domestic-partner benefits," says Kim I. Mills, education director for the Washington, D.C.-based HRC, which produces Worknet, an annual report on how well U.S. corporations address issues such as discrimination and domestic-partner benefits for gay and lesbian employees.

Additionally, many U.S. businesses are showing a greater willingness to go beyond just offering domestic-partner health benefits and nondiscrimination policies. Some are now offering complete benefits packages to same-sex couples that are equal to those they offer married couples, including financial assistance for adoptions and paid family leave, or paying to relocate an employee's same-sex spouse.

"There has been a sea change in the last year, and companies you never expected to be on board are now very aware," says Joseph McCormack, founder and managing partner of McCormack and Associates, a Los Angeles-based executive-search consultancy specializing in diversity recruiting. "As a younger generation rises to positions of authority in these companies and as they bring in executive talent from other, more progressive industries, their culture is changing."

Not to say there aren't still some sticking points. Transgender protections are a significant stumbling block, says Grant Lukenbill, who has authored four books about corporate responsibility. "We can't afford to have the transgender community dismissed as the stepchildren of the gay community," he says, adding that in corporate consciousness, "Gender expression is just beginning to get attention and get its roots."

With these thoughts in mind, The Advocate has compiled a list of 10 good places for gay men and lesbians to work, adding to a list of 35 companies from years past and using as a starting point the research of HRC's Worknet as well as the Gay and Lesbian Values Index, a 10-point corporate annual rating system formulated by Lukenbill. Some of the criteria Lukenbill uses to determine a corporation's score are whether the company has a written nondiscrimination policy for sexual orientation; whether the company offers same-sex domestic-partner health care benefits; and whether it supports antigay groups or groups seeking to repeal legislative protections for gay people.

The following is not meant to be a list of the 10 best places in the United States to work. It is meant to be a list of 10 corporations that have made significant advances in their attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered employees.

AOL Time Warner New York City 2000 Revenues: $36.2 billion combined Employees: 88,000 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: Does not apply

The recently merged media giant, whose vast holdings include HBO and the world's largest Internet access provider, America Online, also has a rich benefits package and workplace protections for its gay and lesbian employees. The company's benefits for couples in same-sex domestic partnerships are equal to those for heterosexual married couples. Besides medical care, they include an adoption assistance benefit of up to $5,000, family leave of up to 16 weeks, and bereavement leave. The company's written nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation, though it does not explicitly include gender identity. Despite chairman Steve Case's personal $8.53 million donation to the Christian-right, antigay Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the company itself supports a wide range of gay and lesbian charities, including Gay Men's Health Crisis and the Mautner Project for lesbians with cancer. Time Warner was an early supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Avaya Basking Ridge, N.J. Fiscal 2000 Revenues: $7.4 billion Employees: 23,000 U.S. Fortune 500 Ranking: Does not apply

The computer network spin-off from Lucent Technologies has the rare distinction of scoring a perfect 10 in Lukenbill's GLV Index. That's in part because its written nondiscrimination policy includes "gender identity, characteristics, or expression." The company says it actively recruits gay and lesbian employees and includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its management diversity training. Its domestic-partner benefits are at parity with the benefits offered heterosexual married couples. It sponsors an on-site corporate gay group.

Donna Karan International New York City 2000 Revenues: $662.7 million Employees: 1,720 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: Does not apply

The queen of retail chic was among the first in the fashion industry to include domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples and to have a written nondiscrimination policy for sexual orientation. The company grants 12 weeks of paid family leave to members of same-sex couples as well as bereavement leave. The company actively supports AIDS and breast cancer organizations, and it advertises in the gay press.

General Motors Detroit 2000 Revenues: $184.6 billion Employees: 372,000 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: 3

Though the automobile manufacturing giant has had a written nondiscrimination policy including sexual orientation since 1992 and clarified the policy in 1998, it didn't start offering same-sex domestic-partner benefits until 2000, when the Big Three automakers jointly decided to offer them. Though such benefits today are limited to dental and health care, the company says it is reviewing the discrepancy between its other corporate benefits for married couples that don't apply to domestic partners. The company's gay and lesbian group, GM Plus, meets on-site and receives financial support from GM. GM also donates to causes concerning AIDS and breast cancer as well as to local gay organizations, and it ceased giving money to the Boy Scouts of America in 1999 because of the BSA's ban on gay members and troop leaders.

Gillette Boston 2000 Revenues: $9.3 billion Employees: 33,000 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: 188

The manufacturer of razor blades and other grooming supplies has a written nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and offers domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples equaling those for straight couples. These include financial assistance for adoptions, family and bereavement leave, and relocation benefits. Gillette actively supports AIDS organizations, breast cancer groups, and the Boston Gay Men's Chorus. Gillette financially supports its corporate gay group, which meets on-site.

Lillian Vernon Rye, N.Y. Fiscal 2001 Revenues: $287.1 million Employees: 1,500 (year-round) U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: Does not apply

The catalog giant for home furnishings, gardening, and children's goods has a written nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, full domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, and openly gay people at all levels of company management. The Lillian Vernon Foundation, which is Vernon's personal organization and is not affiliated with the company, frequently donates to AIDS organizations and other gay causes as well as breast cancer groups. (One of Vernon's sons, former employee Fred Hochberg, is openly gay. He was a cochairman of HRC and was named the Small Business Administration's deputy administrator in 1998 under President Clinton.)

Merrill Lynch New York City 2000 Revenues: $44.9 billion Employees: 49,100 (U.S.) U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: 25

In addition to a sexual orientation-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and domestic-partner benefits equal to those offered to married couples--including financial assistance for adoptions--Merrill Lynch has openly gay employees at some of the highest levels of management. Though a serious strike against the company is its continued support of the Boy Scouts, which it defends on the basis of protecting diversity, the company financially supports its gay and lesbian employee group and sponsors AIDS charities, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, breast cancer organizations, and the AIDS quilt.

Motorola Schaumburg, Ill. 2000 Revenues: $37.6 billion Employees: 115,000 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: 34

The communications technology giant has a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation as well as a package of medical, dental, and relocation benefits for the same-sex domestic partners of employees. Last year the company set up the Gay and Lesbian Business Council to support GLBT employees and reach out to gays and lesbians through advertising, employment recruiting, and community involvement. Motorola has supported numerous gay and gay-friendly organizations, including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, workplace advocacy group Out and Equal, and many local AIDS walks and gay pride celebrations across the country.

Shell Oil Houston 2000 Revenues: $29 billion Employees: 11,000 U.S. Fortune 500 ranking: Does not apply

Unlike competitor ExxonMobil, Shell has continued to stand by its domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, first offered in 1998, as well as its written nondiscrimination policy for sexual orientation, introduced in 1996. Its management diversity training often includes sexual orientation, and a company spokesman says Shell recently offered management support for an employee preparing for a sex-change operation. Shell sponsors the company's gay employee organization, and it supports local gay and lesbian groups as well as HRC and national breast cancer organizations.

Working Assets San Francisco 2000 Revenues: $140 million Employees: About 100 U.S. Fortune 500: Does not apply

This privately owned politically activist telecommunications company uses its long-distance telephone service and Working Assets credit card to raise revenues for a wide range of social and political causes as well as to generate a profit for itself. In the past it has donated to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and HRC, among other gay and lesbian groups. About one third of the Working Assets staff is gay, says president Michael Kieschnick. The company has a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, full domestic-partner benefits, and diversity training that includes sexual orientation and covers both same-sex and opposite-sex sexual harassment.

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