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Head of the Class: Hospitality and Tech Companies Score Big on HRC's Corporate Equality Index

by Jill Gleeson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Mar 6, 2015

The 2015 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's indispensable guide to America's most LGBT-friendly places to work, is out. The news is good for consumers wishing to patronize companies supporting LGBT equality as well as those seeking employment at one. In this 13th edition of the CEI, 366 businesses earned a perfect 100 ranking, more than any before (in the CEI's first year only 13 businesses managed a top score).

Fully 4,446 major brands across dozens of industries are rated CEI businesses, ensuring that making wise buying choices - something which should be on every consumer's mind - is not only easy but painless. As the HRC noted regarding its 2015 Buyer's Guide, "Whether you are buying a cup of coffee or renovating your home, by supporting businesses that support workplace equality you send a powerful message that LGBT inclusion is good for the bottom line."

This year, 150 Fortune 500-ranked businesses obtained a 100 percent rating, including Starwood Hotels and Resorts, whose W Hotels brand has joined with the HRC for the LGBT-equality campaign "Turn it Up for Change." But for those wondering where to put their technology dollars, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Apple are also at the head of the 2015 CEI class.

Calling for Equality with AT&T

AT&T boasts 11 years of perfect CEI scores, though the company's support of its LGBT staffers goes back much further. In 1975 the telecommunications giant became the first major American corporation to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation, and in 1998 it began offering a domestic partner benefit program to its LGBT workers. "What really sets us apart is the long history we have with LGBT employee rights," said Laura Hernandez, AT&T executive director of diversity marketing. "For example, in 2006 we began offering transgender-inclusive health care benefits. I think that makes us very unique because it's not something we started doing a couple of years ago."

AT&T engages with the LGBT community-at-large in varied ways, donating time, energy and millions of dollars to causes including GLAAD, AIDS/HIV charities, the Safe Space Campaign, the Safe Schools Initiative, and Pride events across the country. LEAGUE, AT&T's LGBT and allies employee resource group has also specifically supported programs that provide scholarships to college-bound LGBT students and at-risk youth pursuing their GED. A few years ago, AT&T took another step
forward when it began marketing specifically to LGBT consumers with innovative campaigns like "Live Proud," centered on empowerment, and "Love is Changing History," which raised funds for the Trevor Project.

Apple is Inclusive Down to the Core

Pick up a newspaper lately and chances are good there's an article somewhere detailing how consumer electronics company Apple Inc. is calling for LGBT equality. In the last few years CEO Tim Cook has loudly spoken out against discrimination in the public and private sector, calling on Congress to support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. In a powerful piece published last fall in Bloomberg Business, Cook publicly acknowledged his sexuality, stating "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

As the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Cook has the opportunity to effect enormous change on the corporate world and beyond, continuing Apple's long history of commitment to the LGBT community. Recent examples of this commitment include the thousands of Apple employees from around the world who joined together to march in last year's San Francisco Pride Parade and also Cook's financial investment in HRC's Project One America, a new campaign for LGBT equality in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. And, of course, Apple's 13th consecutive 100 percent score on the CEI, which Cook celebrated with the tweet "Inclusion inspires innovation."

Click here for more information about the HRC's Corporate Equality Index.

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.


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