Tracking Corporate America Under
Compassionate Conservatism

By Grant Lukenbill

Margaret Mead warned us to "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." And thanks to one of the most respected consumer research agencies in the country, Yankelovich Partners, Norwalk, CT, journalists today no longer get away with parroting the decades old stereotype that gays and lesbians earn more money than straights.

Indeed, their statistically relevant 1995 study not only dispelled that myth, but set the groundwork for a new awareness about gay people, how they think as consumers, how they are motivated as employees, and why they are more fearful as citizens.

I published much of this data in Untold Millions, Secret Truths About Marketing to Gay and Lesbian Consumers (Haworth, 2nd edition paperback 1999). I also included Yankelovich analyst Rex Briggs' "psychology of disenfranchisement" theory which argues that a controversial victim mentality often surfaces when ignorance and minority cultural dynamics come together in places of business.

These were frustrating revelations in 1993. But at that most of the nation's largest employers were not committed to protecting us against discrimination on the job, or even interested in extending us domestic partner health care insurance. That reality motivated me to begin working with financial services and consulting company, V-Management of San Francisco in the development of which publishes for free, the glvIndex of companies for the GLBT community. Based on a strict 10-point rating system, the index today is also widely followed by institutional investors who want to track leading public companies (as well as certain influential private firms) on their fair workplace policies for the glbt community. In 2000, there were plenty of companies scoring eights and nines, but only five major companies (four publicly held, one private) scored a perfect 10 by committing to implement a written nondiscrimination policy statement on sexual orientation as well as transgender status: American Airlines, Lucent Technologies, Apple Computer, Trillium Asset Management and Xerox Corporation.

On the opposite end of the scale, there were also five companies listed that I believed to be among the very worst for our community in terms of workplace: Exxon Mobil, Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, Merck Pharmaceuticals, HoffmanLaRoche and Schering Plough.

Although, Exxon and Cracker Barrel have long been targeted as bad guys by the Equality Project, a shareholder advocacy group, perhaps it's time for the rest of us to draw attention to the billion dollar drug manufacturing companies that market their health care brands to gay and lesbian consumers, but don't offer domestic partner benefits to their own gay employees. What kind of corporate leadership is that?

With an alleged compassionate conservatism being touted by President-elect Bush, now is the time for certain intransigent CEO's to take a good hard look at what is happening throughout the country in terms of offering fair policies to employees in relation to sexual orientation. We're now seeing major companies in the advertising, airline and automotive industries adopting more equitable employee benefit policies, but we're also seeing too many companies claiming to be world class corporate citizens without world class workplace policies to back up their words.

If the federal employment nondiscrimination act (ENDA) is ever going to pass, our community will need to send a strong message to more companies about how important domestic partner healthcare benefits really are to us as consumers, employees and investors.

After all, it's not just about equal opportunity and equal rights: it's also about equal pension plan and survivor benefits and equal access to healthcare. In other words, equal treatment under compassionate conservatism.

Grant Lukenbill is vice-president of the Equality Project on Sexual Orientation (501c3). His most recent book is Smart Spending, the Gay and Lesbian Guide to Socially Responsible Shopping and Investing. His glvIndex listing of all companies and their ratings is posted free at