Tracking Corporate America Under
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 glvReports.com 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
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
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
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 glvReports.com.