Inclusivity: Best Practices for LGBTQ Workplace Equality

Companies in the technology, media, and entertainment industry have long recognized the importance of having programming content and a workforce that reflect the diversity of the consumers we serve.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans. Since 2002, HRC has published a Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for workplaces. The CEI establishes specific benchmarks for inclusivity efforts in the workplace based on three key pillars:

  • Non-discrimination policies across business entities;
  • Equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families;
  • Supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility.

This year, three of C2HR’s member companies, Univision, Cox Communications and CBS Corporation, were among the 572 businesses earning a perfect score of 100% on the CEI. The 2019 CEI evaluates LGBTQ-related policies and practices including non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs, and public engagement with the LGBTQ community. This year’s index included new health care coverage criteria of:

  • Ensuring full spousal and partner health care coverage parity;
  • Affirming coverage for transition-related care and eliminating all so-called “transgender exclusions” from plans; and,
  • Ensuring full LGBTQ inclusion in diverse supply chain programs.

1. Embed Inclusivity into Company Culture

The first rule of inclusivity is to ensure that everyone within your workforce is heard, respected and embraced as a unique individual. That focus should extend beyond gender, race and age to include diversity of thought, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community, people with disabilities and any other historically marginalized group.

As Ellen Taffe, Assistant Professor of Leadership at the Kellogg School, says, “Inclusion is about welcoming, developing and advancing a diverse mix of individuals. It’s about making all people feel valued, including changing practices that might unfairly benefit any one group, and making sure that everyone feels they have the same opportunity to advance and make an impact.”

Companies also should commit to fostering an inclusive and diverse environment anchored in their inclusive core values. 

"One of the things that makes Cox such a great place to work is our approach to diversity and inclusion,” said Sujata Gosalia, Cox Communications’ EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, who also serves as executive sponsor of the company’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG). “At Cox, diversity is both a core value and an important piece of our business strategy – we want to reflect the communities we serve. We are a company where all identities, cultures and backgrounds are celebrated, and we seek to ensure our employees can bring their authentic selves to work every day."

While Cox Communications fosters an environment where all 20,000+ employees' viewpoints, expertise and experiences are valued and respected, the company’s D&I strategy also includes a focus on the company’s communities, customers and suppliers.

2. Bias Beware

Vanderbilt University defines unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) as “prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair.”

When we have identified an area of bias in ourselves or within the company culture, addressing it, retraining and celebrating the eventual success will keep the team moving forward.

It's important that all employees understand what unconscious bias is,work to develop an awareness of their own biases and takes active steps to mitigate the same. Today, artificial intelligence is helping identify and correct bias in practices such as hiring.

3. Engage Through ERGs

Inclusion looks different to each person and the topic should always be on the table and out in the open. CBS Corporation, Cox Communications and Univision use ERGs to continue the conversation of inclusivity within their organizations and provide a forum for employees to lead the discussion on the topic.

Univision CEO Vince Sadusky stated, “At Univision, we value our commitment to being a welcoming place for each person who works with us, including LGBTQ leaders and employees. Our Employee Resource Group, Orgullo (Pride), empowers LGBTQ employees to lead on issues that matter and help educate fellow employees on diversity and inclusion. Univision could not be prouder of this achievement and we will continue working to ensure our company is an inclusive workplace for all.”

At Univision, Orgullo members made a decision last December to broaden the scope of the ERG to also serve as a business resource group – in which members would watch local and network programming and provide recommendations to entertainment leaders on how the company could better represent LGBTQ characters on its networks. Additionally, the ERG pledged to help promote these more inclusive programs to their community. In 2019, Univision won its first GLAAD award for scripted series in Spanish.

Cox Communications has five Pride ERG chapters with more than 728 members focused on developing strategies that promote inclusion, while CBS PRIDE offers LGBTQ and Allied employees at CBS Corporation, Showtime, Smithsonian Channel, POP, Network 10 Australia, Simon & Schuster and all across the CBS Corporation a networking platform, professional and personal development and other opportunities.

In addition to ERGs, technology is facilitating a digital conversations and resources centered on inclusivity. The Dot launched by Woman 2.0 offers HR teams access to D&I resources, management tactics and inclusion facilitators, while Vault Platform, Valued and other workplace reporting apps provide early warnings of harassment or bullying comments within employee communications. 

4. Use Data to Support Your Strategy

“Time and again, leading American businesses have shown that protecting their employees and customers from discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business,” said Chad Griffin, President of Human Rights Council.

In fact, McKinsey & Company’s research found that companies with more ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.

According to HRC’s 2019 CEI, 193 of the Fortune 500 ranked companies achieved a 100% rating in this year’s survey. In addition, 93% of Fortune 500 businesses included sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and 85% included gender identity. Over half of Fortune 500 companies offered transgender-inclusive health care benefits.

Looking more specifically at the technology, media and entertainment industry, the Hollywood Diversity Report shows audiences prefer more diverse content and feedback showed social media engagement for cable scripted shows was the highest for shows with a majority-minority cast. Also, the most recent NAMIC (National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications) Advancement Investment Measurement (AIM) Diversity Report stated that 77% of the companies surveyed offer supervisory training including sexual orientation and gender identity as topics. The NAMIC AIM Report found that 44% of programmers were likely to have senior-level champions for LGBTQ hiring, development and retention, compared with 25% of MSOs. Leadership is one area of opportunity for many corporations, and it’s a critical factor of success.

According to Josie J. Thomas, EVP & Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at CBS Corporation, “Diversity is a business imperative for us. It is only when you create an environment where inclusive voices are at the table and involved in the decision-making process that you reach the most effective and innovative business solutions, and that must be an intentional process.”

Following the best practices and examples set forth by these industry leaders will help lead your company toward an environment of workplace inclusivity. Congratulations again to these three outstanding C2HR member companies: Cox Communications, Univision and CBS Corporation!