Alyson Stevens of Starcom.
JPMorgan Chase ( represented here at September's Out & Equal Conference ) is one of a few local companies that received a perfect score on the 2006 HRC.
Starcomm LINKS affinity group.
Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) reported that 138 of the 446 companies surveyed in its 2006 Corporate Equality Index earned a perfect score of 100. According to the report, 'That number is up from 101 in 2005, and has grown tenfold in four years.'
In Illinois, 13 companies received top scores, including Boeing, BP America, CNA Insurance and Walgreens.
The Chicago-based companies that Windy City Times spoke with agreed that in order to ensure top-level talent, a company must have diversity and make sure that all employees feel safe, comfortable and respected at work.
Representatives from Hospira, Starcom MediaVest Group, JPMorgan Chase and Jenner & Block ( four other local companies that received perfect scores ) recently talked with Windy City Times about their sexual-orientation policies as well as LGBT-related interests in their companies.
JPMorgan Chase, a leading global financial services firm, has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index all five years of the index's existence. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon explained, 'Building a workplace where differences are respected and valued is critical to our future. We have an amazing opportunity in front of us to build the best financial services company in the world. Achieving this depends on having the best people doing their best work. For us the business case is simple; JPMorgan Chase is a place for talented people from all backgrounds and nationalities. Gender, race, sexual orientation, age and physical ability are just some of the kinds of differences that make people unique, and give us the diversity of perspective that will set us apart.'
This commitment to diversity is represented in particular by the company's progressive approach to transgender policy. Gender identity had already been included within JPMorgan Chase's nondiscrimination and harassment policy prior to 2006. In 2006, the company implemented additional policies for gender transition in the workplace, which, according to Jim Huberty, Global Head of PRIDE, JPMorgan Chase's LGBT networking-group, include, 'training for HR business partners and managers of transgender employees, as well as tools for transgender employees making a transition. In addition, JPMorgan Chase offers health insurance coverage for three of the four transgender-related benefits and is currently considering adding coverage for sex reassignment surgery.'
LGBT consumers can find products, services and marketing materials targeted specifically at them, including Private Client Services, Flexible Mortgage and Chase credit card.
When discussing Chase's LGBT-related efforts, Huberty mentioned that the company's domestic partner benefits include health insurance, bereavement, adoption assistance and family leave.
The company also participates in LGBT community corporate advertising, and possibly more importantly, 'non-participation and no funding for organizations that discriminate against LGBT [ individuals ] .'
Recently, JPMorgan Chase received two 'Outie' Awards, the Workplace Excellence Award and the Significant Achievement Award. In response to what receiving these awards means to the company, head of human resources, John Bradley said, 'Smart businesses recognize there are differences, but wise and successful companies go further by intentionally integrating those differences into their workplace so as to tap the rich resources of diversity, to reflect the world they serve and to anticipate their client's needs.'
In the future, employees, clients and the community can expect to see increased benefits from JPMorgan Chase in their efforts to increase inclusiveness and diversity. Huberty says the company will sponsor local LGBT events in major markets, seek LGBT talent and reward managers who strive to improve diversity and an inclusive workplace, and seek additional products and services to meet the financial needs of the LGBT community.
Since its spin-off from Abbott in 2004, Hospira, a pharmaceutical and medication delivery company based in Lake Forest, has always encouraged an open-door policy for employees to bring forth policy suggestions and solutions. Many of Hospira's policies are the results of employees' active involvement. This is especially true about LGBT policies the company has adopted.
In fact, when the company was founded, a domestic partnership policy was immediately adopted that had been presented previously by two partners.
Today, Corporate Vice President of Global Human Resources Henry Weishaar believes that employee champions are vital to company policy consideration and change, and continues to encourage employees to not only bring forth needs, but to present solutions.
When Hospira initially began preparing for the 2006 HRC rating it discovered it was lacking in its transgender policies. The company worked to rectify that situation, and was quickly able to implement transgender related material into their policy.
Weishaar sees diversity and inclusion as good, practical business. 'Even when we were a division of Abbott, we had always had a philosophy of trying to attract the best talent and trying to get a totally equal and fair playing field for people to compete in. So, we have always had that interest.'
Recruiting is very important to Hospira, especially with so many pharmaceutical companies competing for the top talent. As a result, the company is always trying to highlight its diversity policies. 'It's not only in the recruiting material, but it's very much a recruiting practice, where we sell the fact that we are very friendly in all diversity issues. We do make sure that our benefits cover everybody equally. All of our recruiting materials also say that prominently. We just had a re-enrollment, which we always do annually, in the health care arena, and again, we used that as an opportunity to reiterate our policy and broad coverage that we apply to partners,' said Weishaar.
The company is also highlighting its HRC achievement in its Citizenship Report, and will continue to look for opportunities to present that information.
Weishaar believes that companies should be challenged. He says it creates an awareness and helps companies who want to do the right thing, but might not be aware of where their policies are falling short, to rectify that situation. Oftentimes, it's a matter of needing to be educated on an issue. At Hospira, employees continue to be encouraged to present management with needs and changes.
The company is working on formalizing it's LGBT group, and Weishaar said he looks forward to the dialogue that will take place in the future on all diversity issues. 'You can't relax once you've had success. You have to keep at it.'
Jenner & Block
In 2003, Jenner & Block helped win the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, so it is no surprise the firm received top honors on the HRC Corporate Equality Index for the second year in a row. The case challenged the legality of a Texas anti-sodomy law that criminalized only same-sex conduct, and the win helped alter the LGBT civil rights landscape. However, Jenner & Block's LGBT efforts do not stop there.
The firm was recognized by Equality Illinois for having the highest percentage of LGBT attorneys among the state's largest law firms, was ranked by Vault as one of the top five law firms in the country for 'Diversity for Gays and Lesbians' ( the firm's fourth time receiving this honor ) , was honored by Horizons Community Services/Center on Halsted in 2004 with the Human First Award, and helped raise nearly $30,000 for Vital Bridges, with more than 40 attorneys and summer associates participating in the Croquet Tournament fundraiser.
The firm also helps sponsor many LGBT events, including the Chicago 2006 Gay Games; the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association's Lavender Law conference; and the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund's Bon Foster Civil Rights Celebration ( named after Robert Bonvouloir, a Jenner & Block Associate who died of AIDS-related causes in 1991 ) .
Jenner & Block's LGBT affinity group is working to achieve its goal of improving LGBT diversity within the legal profession. Efforts include working with the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association on inclusion for gay and lesbian attorneys within the profession, and a partner with the firm will chair the NLGLA's committee on gay and lesbian diversity. The firm also has several attorneys working within the LGBT community on several different boards and projects.
The HRC reported that, 'In 2006, law firms and companies in the aerospace and defense, consulting services, and pharmaceuticals industries moved in lockstep, behind industry leaders, to change their workplaces for LGBT employees.' Jenner & Block was one of these industry leaders, being the first Chicago-headquartered law firm and the fourth nationwide to receive a perfect rating in 2005.
Jenner & Block has a 95-percent participation rate in its diversity-training program, which involves bringing in a consultant for four hours of education. Annually, members of the firm participate in a diversity dialogue, where they discuss issues concerning gender, sexuality and race.
Jenner & Block Partner Gail Morse said, 'We are always out there looking for ways to make the community safer. So advocating for non-discrimination laws, marriage equality, hate crime legislation and all of the things that are on the forefront of GLBT policy issues. By using our advocacy within the community, we identify areas within the Firm that we would need to work on.'
LGBT people read The Advocate and TiVo America's Next Top Model, but what else do they read and watch? Starcom MediaVest Group wants to know. With stellar LGBT policies in place and a top rating in the HRC Corporate Equality Index, Starcom knows how important an asset you are, as well as a consumer. In 2007, the company is looking to educate their clients on the different LGBT segments, pushing beyond the obvious markets.
'I think there are a good number of opportunities out there for agencies to get involved in, in terms of TV, radio, on-line, and print,' said IMC Development Director Alyson Stevens. 'There is a lot of LGBT focused content. I think what is more interesting is that we're finding the more mainstream areas that LGBT consumers gravitate to. So, beyond the obvious thingsâ€¦are, what we call general marketer, more mainstream advertising vehicles that LGBT consumers and different segments within the LGBT market gravitate towards.' She then summed up one important goal: 'How do we convince marketers to develop LGBT inclusive messages and creative that would let those consumers know they are being spoken directly to?'
Starcom is one of the largest brand communications groups in the world, and its job is to help companies place their messages in the right outlet to reach their target audience. The LGBT community is just one general segment Starcom focuses on, but the company's efforts and commitment in this area have been extensive.
Starcom reports that many of its LGBT policies have been in place long before 2005, the first year it appeared on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. The company implemented transgender criteria within a 12-to-18-month period, ensuring its top spot on the 2006 rating. The company is committed to being a leader on the index.
In fact, Starcom is the only company to earn a perfect score within the advertising and marketing industry.
Outside of implementing LGBT-inclusive policies, the company is particularly proud of its LINKS affinity group, which was started in 2005. In its first year, the group focused mainly on internal education and recruiting. This included initiatives on LGBT research, internal education for PRIDE month, showcases of LGBT media at its Employee Diversity Expo, educaional programs for recruiters and a point-by-point immersion program for those who need information on the LGBT community.
Another project Starcom is particularly excited about is Crystal Breaks, an anti-meth initiative. The company's work with the Crystal Meth Task Force garnered much attention when the brand identity for the task force was unveiled during Market Days in 2005. Starcom teamed up with creative agency Lapiz on this pro bono effort to raise awareness of the damage crystal meth causes within the LGBT community. The campaign included dog tags, a billboard truck, bus stop ads, print ads—including a national ad placed in The Advocate—and even mirror overlays within club bathrooms. In 2007, Starcom hopes to find another LGBT related pro bono assignment.
Starcom is committed to continuing research on several segments of the LGBT community and building an extensive database of information and case studies to draw from in order to help clients target the LGBT community more effectively, particularly beyond obvious markets. Starcom says presently there is not a lot of information about the LGBT community outside of this arena.
Steven's said, 'I think the thing that convinces advertisers to do anything that they haven't done in the past are case studies, or examples of where it's been effective. As much as we can, we will pull our resources together and provide case studies on where people have gone and proactively, either specifically created a campaign to reach that market and then put it in those spots, or are actively out there targeting them, and how that has had a positive impact on their business. That, more than anything else, is what convinces a client to start targeting LGBT consumers when they haven't.'
Starcom wants to stay progressive inside and outside of the company when it comes to LGBT inclusion. The next year should see the company's continued involvement in gathering the necessary information to help clients recognize if LGBT consumers are viable targets for them, as well as how to reach these consumers and create a plan to meet these goals. Within the office, the company hopes to continue to provide an inclusive and diverse atmosphere, promising them the best of the business when it comes to employees.