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Companies that
embrace equality

Companies that
embrace equality


In 2006 a record number of Fortune 500 companies are offering benefits and protections to their LGBT employees. The Advocate highlights 10 additions to its ever-growing list of equality-minded employers.

As the nation approaches the midterm election, few candidates or incumbents have expressed their support for full gay equality. But even if the government isn't moving in that direction, the private sector clearly is.

Among corporations across the nation domestic-partner benefits have become the norm, not the rarity. A majority of Fortune 500 companies now offer domestic-partner health benefits, up from just one in 1992, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Many household brands have policies that support employees transitioning from one gender to another. And a record 92.2% of Fortune 500 companies have policies that include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the Equality Forum.

As The Advocate prepared its eighth annual list of new inductees to our ongoing list of great places for LGBT people to work, it found a record number of firms striving to earn spots in the upper echelon of pro-gay workplaces. New honorees were selected in part on the basis of data from the Human Rights Campaign's 2006 Corporate Equality Index, which gives companies scores from 0 to 100. These 10 all scored 100.

"So many companies are on the right path," says HRC president Joe Solmonese. "The few really bad companies--the ExxonMobils of the world--you can almost count on one hand. That's a sea change, where we've been able to go with this work over a relatively short period of time."

To earn a perfect score on HRC's list this year, for the first time, companies must offer transgender-wellness benefits such as pharmacy coverage for hormone therapy, while offering the same benefits to gay partners that straight spouses enjoy. Despite the stricter requirements, 133 companies earned 100s, up from 101 last year and 13 in 2002, the year the Corporate Equality Index was established.

The following companies are not The Advocate's pick of the "10 best." They are a selection of recent recruits to a growing list of great employers.

Anheuser-Busch Headquarters: St. Louis Revenue: $15 billion Global employees: 31,485 Fortune 500 ranking: 146

Gay beer drinkers likely recognize this company's "Be Yourself" advertisements featuring illustrations of buff men partying with Bud Light bottles in their hands. The nation's biggest beer maker includes gay couples not only in its marketing campaigns but also in its employee programs. The brewer of Michelob beer and Tilt malt beverage provides comprehensive benefits to gay employees and their partners. It offers medical, dental, and vision insurance and adoption assistance. And even if an employee's domestic partner chooses not to participate in Anheuser-Busch's health plans, he or she remains eligible for many other benefits, says Joe Castellano, vice president of corporate human resources. For example, domestic partners still would be eligible for relocation assistance, financial planning services, legal services, and the employee assistance program.

Boeing Headquarters: Chicago Revenue: $55 billion Global employees: 158,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 26

The largest manufacturer of satellites, commercial jetliners, and military aircraft has included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy since 1998. But the company went further this year. It added gender identity to that policy and published guidelines to support employees transitioning from one gender to another. "That was a major celebration for us," says Connie Jack, cultural diversity and inclusion manager. "Diversity itself is a core business strategy of the company. It is our intent to create an inclusive environment that provides for a fully engaged workforce." Besides offering domestic-partner benefits, Boeing has diversity training that covers sexual orientation and sends out an annual "re-affirmation letter" reminding employees of its antiharassment policies and commitment to diversity. In addition, the Boeing Employees Association of Gays, Lesbians, and Friends provides personal and professional development for LGBT employees, and an LGBT advisory committee helps management in fostering a welcoming workplace.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Headquarters: New York City Revenue: $19.2 billion Global employees: 42,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 110

Through a landmark partnership with Gilead Sciences, this 119-year-old company is making life easier for HIV-positive people. Atripla, the first once-a-day single tablet for treating HIV infection, contains Bristol-Myers Squibb's Sustiva medication along with Gilead's Emtriva and Viread. Bristol-Myers Squibb has kept pace with the times not only through pharmaceutical innovations but also through workplace advances. It offers the same benefits to same-sex domestic partners as it does to married couples: health insurance, coverage of a partner's dependents, temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates to former employees and their domestic partners, adoption assistance, and four child care centers, among other perks. Every three to four years, all employees complete mandatory antiharassment and nondiscrimination training that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, says Stacey Gibson, senior director of work/life and diversity. Additional training is offered on an intranet. And its gay pride activities include "town hall" meetings that have featured Selisse Berry, executive director of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, and Judy Shepard, mother of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard.

Coca-Cola Headquarters: Atlanta Revenue: $23.1 billion Global employees: 55,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 89

The board of directors of the world's largest nonalcoholic beverage company sent a message about their commitment to LGBT equality by sticking to their pro-gay policies when challenged. They opposed one shareholder's attempt in 2003 to remove sexual orientation from Coca-Cola's employee nondiscrimination policy and to repeal its domestic-partner benefits. The proposal failed, and the Atlanta company continues to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Coca-Cola has provided health insurance to same-sex domestic partners that spans medical, vision, and dental coverage, including retiree health care, since January 2001. It sanctions the Gay and Lesbian Employee Forum, an outgrowth of an unofficial group formed in 1998, that serves as a network for LGBT employees. And the company again spread its message of inclusion publicly by sponsoring the 2006 Atlanta Pride Festival.

Deloitte & Touche Headquarters: New York City Revenue: $7.8 billion U.S. employees: 33,000 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A

Listen to out partner George Zuber and you'll hear how this Big Four accounting firm stood by gay employees and embraced diversity before many others got "on that bandwagon." "I chose Deloitte primarily because of its value of people toward diversity," says Zuber, who joined the firm 23 years ago. "Even back in 1983, when I made that decision, some of the things that influenced me was that our largest practice at that time was led by a gay partner and even during the '80s...

Deloitte, rather than trying to cut back benefits, actually was providing additional benefits and support for partners and others with AIDS at Deloitte." Deloitte & Touche offers domestic-partner benefits that mirror those available to straight married employees: medical, dental, and vision insurance; sabbaticals equal to that given to straight married employees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act; bereavement leave; relocation assistance; and adoption assistance. Its extensive gender-reassignment coverage includes mental health counseling and short-term leave for surgical procedures. Since the late 1990s the firm has supported its Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees and Allies group, which has more than a dozen chapters nationwide. In addition, two Deloitte employees are on HRC's national board, with a third to come in October; Zuber serves on Lambda Legal's board of directors; and Deloitte is a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. The firm also sponsors the annual Reaching Out conference for LGBT MBA students.

Intuit Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif. Revenue: $2.3 billion Global employees: 7,500 Fortune 1,000 ranking: 779

You might not know the name Intuit, but you likely will recognize the names of its best-known products. The maker of the TurboTax tax-preparation software and Quicken financial software long has prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation and added gender identity to that policy in 2004. It offers comprehensive domestic-partner health benefits, including counseling for transgender employees and parental leave. Employees and their domestic partners also can use a free referral service to help find child care, elder care, and pet care. And to help with the cost of adopting a child, Intuit reimburses up to $3,500 per adoption. In addition, the Intuit Foundation matches donations made by Intuit employees to qualified organizations and funds grants for employee-nominated organizations.

Kraft Foods Headquarters: Northfield, Ill. Revenue: $34.1 billion Global employees: 94,000 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A

This summer proved to be a good season for the nation's largest food and beverage company. It stood up to threats from religious conservatives by refusing to cancel its sponsorship of the Gay Games held in Chicago in July. That same month, the maker of Balance bars and Milk-Bone dog snacks reported that its second-quarter net earnings rose 44% compared with a year ago. And its new CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, former CEO of PepsiCo's Frito-Lay snack division, talked with employees about the importance of workforce diversity and inclusion during her first "town hall" meeting. "I believe that diversity is fundamental to our continued business success," Rosenfeld said. For LGBT employees and their partners, that commitment to diversity means an array of benefits such as medical, dental, and vision coverage. Kraft's pharmaceutical benefits cover hormone therapy for transgender employees and related medical visits to monitor the treatments. The Rainbow Council, a gay employee group with more than 100 members, recently started its newest chapter in Madison, Wis. And all employees are required to attend diversity training that covers issues such as sexual orientation. "I think we have a very progressive environment that allows employees to thrive," says Rod Christmon, associate director of North American diversity.

Pricewaterhouse-Coopers Headquarters: New York City Revenue: $20.3 billion Global employees: 120,000 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting firm, has been busily reaching out to its LGBT personnel, from entry-level associates to senior-level partners. In January 2005 it formed an LGBT advisory board with nine of the firm's gay partners on it. Now they're all featured in a video being circulated throughout the firm. "By bringing together some people who have really succeeded in our firm and risen through the ranks to become partner and then to visibly promote their coming out, if you will, to the whole firm, is our way of saying this is OK in our environment," says partner Chris Simmons, chief diversity officer. "That is a big statement for us to make." PwC is planning to make an even bigger statement in an upcoming print advertisement that shows a large question mark next to the declaration "Whether it's a choice or not, we've made ours." "A lot of people feel it's important to decide whether being gay is a choice or nature before they decide whether they can be inclusive," Simmons says. "Our view is that it really doesn't matter why somebody has become who they are. We should be respectful and inclusive of them. We're really trying to take a stand on important issues, not just make generic statements that we support the GLBT community." PwC offers comprehensive domestic-partner benefits and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This summer and fall, strategic meetings have included sessions in which out colleagues talked about their work experiences. And the founders of the firm's first LGBT diversity circle last year won a coveted chairman's award. Eleven locations now have LGBT circles.

Starcom MediaVest Group Headquarters: Chicago Revenue: $700 million Global employees: 5,541 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A

You might be seeing a certain commercial during Logo's Noah's Arc instead of NBC's The Office because Starcom MediaVest Group understands whom to reach where. A unit of the Paris-based advertising conglomerate Publicis, Starcom helps advertisers determine the right mix of media to reach their target audiences, then buys their ad space on TV, in print, the Internet, or elsewhere. Starcom also understands how to treat its LGBT workers. In addition to domestic-partner health benefits, gay employees get five paid days of vacation when they have a commitment ceremony, the same leave given to straight employees when they marry. And on top of adoption assistance, employees get two additional weeks of paid time off when they or their partner adopt a child or give birth. The LGBT Lifestyle, Interests, and Networks for Knowledge and Support group acts as an advocate for gay employees, a resource for understanding LGBT consumers, and even an ad hoc focus group for getting feedback about ideas. In July, LINKS members placed educational posters throughout their building with facts about LGBT consumers. "As a media agency, we're all about connecting with the consumer," says Mary O'Leary, senior vice president of human resources. "We want to have an employee population that is representative of the population. By having a significant LGBT presence bring one particular piece of the patchwork of America into our organization, we believe that we are representing our clients in a very appropriate way by having employees who are representative of the market."

Volkswagen of America Headquarters: Auburn Hills, Mich. Revenue: $9 billion U.S. employees: 3,000 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A

It's no surprise that the company that airs daring Jetta commercials poking fun at stereotypes or a truck-on-car collision also is a leader within the workplace. A 25-member cross-functional diversity council that advises the Volkswagen executive board includes an LGBT representative. In 2003 the company launched mandatory diversity training that addresses sexual orientation. "We don't have a lot of training that's mandatory," says Machelle Williams, corporate diversity leader, "and that one is." Williams travels throughout the organization, the U.S. sales arm of German-based Volkswagen AG, leading what's known as "courageous conversation," educational discussions that tackle myths about sexual orientation. In addition to the domestic-partner benefits that define top-tier employers, Volkswagen lets spouses and domestic partners of employees lease cars, such as the Passat and the Beetle, at discounted prices. Employees take pride in their employer's reputation. Those in a suburban Chicago facility, for example, hung a banner heralding the company's perfect score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. "Our goal is to create a culture of inclusion," says Williams. "That means people are comfortable bringing their whole selves to work every day."

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