Most (72%) of the 320 HR and talent leaders surveyed last week by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) reported that their companies openly support the LGBTQ+ community.
About one in five (22%) said that their organizations have chosen neutrality with no stated position on LGBTQ+ issues. Only 2% of respondents reported that their organizations do not openly support the LGBTQ+ community; the same percentage said that their companies are currently considering their positions.
The LGBTQ+ community has been the focus of intense political and legislative attention and action of late, both globally and in the U.S. After years of progress in establishing LGBTQ+ rights and representation, the daily lives (and by extension the work lives) of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families are increasingly difficult to navigate.
Business, HR, and talent leaders who regularly gather for candid discussions facilitated by i4cp are not shying away from addressing the challenges brought on by these developments, both from a business and cultural perspective. Their recent conversations about current practices in response to the rolling back of standing legislation, and newly proposed or enacted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation spurred i4cp’s latest pulse survey—Employers and LGBTQ+ Legislation.
We asked the survey respondents who reported that their organizations openly support the LGBTQ+ community to tell us what this support looks like:
- 88% communicate commitment through LGBTQ+ DE&I activities such as Pride Month, Trans Day of Visibility, participation in the Corporate Equality Index, etc.
- 72% underscore inclusion as an organizational value.
- 71% include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in their anti-discrimination policies.
- 66% consult with their employee groups for guidance—affinity groups, networks, employee resources groups (ERGs/BRGs).
Responding to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation with clarity
Any external factors that affect the business environment must be met with organizational performance and productivity in mind—for leaders, this may include anticipating and responding to legislation that impacts their workforces.
The i4cp survey found that in response to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, openly supportive organizations:
- Ensure that their anti-discrimination policies explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected characteristics (71%)
- Monitor legislative developments and public opinion (59%)
- Hold internal listening sessions specific to the topic of anti-LGBTQ legislation (38%)
- Provide managers with guidance on company policies and crafting messaging to clearly communicate company positions (46%)
- Publicly voice opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation/proposed legislation (18%)
- Internally voice opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation/proposed legislation (25%)
In addition, 43% said their companies have designated non-gendered restrooms and other onsite facilities for employee and customer use. Non-gendered/gender neutral restrooms can alleviate the potential for awkwardness or misunderstanding, and are defined by the ADA as safe, private spaces for individuals who may be transgender, gender non-conforming, for families with children, and people with disabilities who may need assistance.
Some companies have also formed multi-functional teams to address social, legal, or other issues that could impact their businesses. As a consideration for states and regions forwarding legislation that makes doing business there risky for LGBTQ+ employees and other stakeholders, almost a quarter of those surveyed said their organizations are relocating events in response to these efforts, and 5% are using it as a criterion when considering future investments.
Organizations that openly support the LGBTQ+ community offer an array of corresponding employee benefits
In addition to explicit communication and messaging efforts, companies that support the LGBTQ+ community demonstrate this through policy setting and the provision of benefits and other considerations that address the needs of LGBTQ+ employees and customers.
Investment in benefits such as providing employees with gender-affirming healthcare (62%) and offering full or partial reimbursement for travel out-of-state or region to access healthcare services (33%) that are constrained by recent regulations top the list.
In addition, almost a quarter reported that their company policies empower employees to opt out of business travel to certain U.S. states or other countries/regions where legislation and even criminalization may put them at risk. Some organizations are going so far as to offer relocation benefits out of U.S. states (9%) or countries/global regions (7%) that are deemed hostile to LGBTQ+ employees.
Leaders see their policies driving more opportunities than risks, but many remain uncertain
The i4cp survey asked leaders—whatever their organization’s current LGBTQ+ policies might be—about risks and opportunities they associate with their companies’ positions.
Six in 10 respondents cited opportunities related to their company cultures, marking that as the area of greatest promise. Nearly as many reported their perceptions of opportunities in innovation, employer brand, and talent attraction.
As the graph reflects, few noted risks they associate with their companies’ stances on LGBTQ+ legislation, although a significant percentage cited both opportunities and risks among the dozen-plus factors listed in the survey.
Of importance to note are relatively high percentages of don’t know responses when it comes to the potential business effects. Clearly, organizational leaders are watching intently and waiting to see what happens, particularly in areas where their activities most closely intersect with governmental entities and contracts.
Finally, the survey asked about the reactions organizations receive to their positions on support (or non-support) for the LGBTQ+ community. Write-in responses ran the gamut from solely positive feedback to very negative reactions. But many survey respondents pointed out the complexities—and the potential dangers—inherent in navigating widespread polarization:
We are somewhat neutral in terms of our approach. We have an expressed view on inclusion within our company, but are never going to be an ‘activist’ organization. For some of our employees, that doesn’t go far enough. For others, it’s too far.
We operate across the country, so some of our more progressive stances are both applauded and criticized. It’s increasingly difficult to take company stances on these issues when the microclimate is so varied nationwide. We’ve found ourselves in positions where by celebrating and amplifying LGBTQ+ issues, our teams are put at risk of dangerous violence from customers.
In the face of ongoing turmoil, one business leader shared this conclusion: “What resonates most is having a very clear and consistent position that we can point to—something that feels reasonable and objective versus political or agenda-driven.”
The HR and talent leaders with whom i4cp closely works are accustomed to the challenges of creating inclusive and diverse workplaces in a continuously changing environment. But navigating this current divisive environment is putting organizations’ pressing business needs and strategies at the center of a political debate—one that’s pitting support for LGBTQ+ employees and an inclusive talent brand against leaders’ desire to avoid engaging in social/political agendas that have little to do with their core business.
i4cp’s goal is to support these employers with data and practice insights that uphold decades of our research showing that commitment to DE&I is a high-performance business strategy.
References and Resources:
2023 Legislative Session: The ACLU is tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S.
Companies Pull Back from Pride Campaigns After Backlash and Threats Toward Employees
Full List of Companies Facing Boycotts for Pride Month
How Anti-LGBTQ+ Rhetoric Fuels Violence
Most Americans Say Companies Should Publicly Support LGBTQ Community, Survey Finds
New FBI Data Shows More Hate Crimes. These Groups Saw The Sharpest Rise.
Report: Corporate Equality Index 2022: Rating Workplaces on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Equality