Three Practices for Increasing LGBTQ+ Corporate Equality with Keisha Williams — Virtual Gathering Recap

On April 28, 2022, we proudly hosted on a conversation on corporate equality for LGBTQ+ professionals in the workplace featuring Keisha Williams, Director of the Workplace Equality Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Keisha shared key findings and data from this year’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), an annual study facilitated by the HRC and offered perspective on some of the practices employers can employ for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality. Here are the three practices that resonated with us

1. Ensure transgender rights are embedded in your benefits and healthcare offerings and culture strategies. 

When the CEI was first executed 20 years ago, transgender healthcare benefits at participating employers were few and far between. Keisha notes that almost none offered trans-inclusive care; today, the story is different:

“Now, 91% of these large organizations and businesses that we work with have transgender-inclusive care and have been a real catalyst for engaging and working with the healthcare industry and insurers to make sure these broad exclusions are no longer part of their offerings.”

Employers can and should ensure that the companies they work with for employee healthcare benefits do not have some of the broad exclusions that create barriers to care for transgender employees. From treatments and services related to sex affirmation or reassignment, transgender healthcare must be viewed as an imperative for LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace.

Keisha also mentions that intentionally and proactively creating a culture where trans professionals are respected is critical. She notes that about half of this year’s participating companies have gender transition guidelines, which provide guidance to transitioning employees, their colleagues, their supervisors and others, in order to create a considerate and inclusive atmosphere.

2. Facilitate conversation around LGBTQ+ employee needs.

A large part of meaningful DEI strategy is listening to and learning from the group you intend to uplift and support in order to accurately understand and evolve your practices to address their needs.

Keisha says: “What we are encouraging companies to do … is to really have conversations, policies, and training around respectful interactions in the workplace, so asking individuals about their pronouns, having [including your pronouns] as part of your meeting when folks are introducing themselves, including that information in your signature.” … restroom policies and practices, looking at dress codes …”

The way to bridge the gap is to be clear about what your company’s values are and what the expectations are going to be in the workplace.

When disagreements or controversy arise, understand that you have to lean on your company’s values to make the case for why certain polices are in place. Keisha notes that contention can often arise from generational differences, but reminded attendees that “the way to bridge the gap is to be clear about what your company’s values are” and, as a result of that, “what the expectations are going to be in the workplace.”

3. Use your voice.

While an incredibly large number of companies scored highly in this year’s CEI, Keisha stressed that those that stood out from the pack were ones not only creating inclusive practices and equitable strategies, but also using their voice to speak out against injustice, discriminatory legislation, and acts of violence against the LGBTQ+ community:

Those standout companies are really ones that we are seeing that are using that voice to be a change for good.

“One of the things we’ve seen that companies have been doing is using their corporate voice. You, as a company, are uniquely positioned … to be able to make an impact in the communities where your business operates. Those standout companies are really ones that we are seeing that are using that voice to be a change for good.”

In closing, for many of the organizations just starting or still struggling with this particular part of their DEI focus, Keisha reminded us that being anywhere in the journey means creating the change you eventually hope to see.

“Embrace the fact that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a destination that you reach, it’s a commitment to be on a journey. It’s not about where you’re starting but where you’re trying to go.”

To get the full conversation, watch the recording of this virtual gathering.

Our Virtual Gatherings are designed for business leaders, investors, and advocates who are looking to level-up their practice by learning from and connecting with Conscious Capitalists around the world.