We're now in an era where there are more openly gay professional athletes than Fortune 500 CEOs.
Corporate America has come a long way in creating LGBT-inclusive policy (as has the government, just this week), but as Deena Fidas of the Human Rights Campaign says, "The inclusive policies coming from the boardroom have not fully made it into the everyday culture of the American workplace."
One key to changing this culture is activating non-LGBT employees to stand up and show their support. When executives, managers, and peers speak up as allies in those everyday scenarios we're all familiar with -- the boss voicing a stereotype, or the client making an innocent assumption about someone's sexuality -- the community of people working towards an inclusive workplace expands, and the office culture can improve rapidly. Companies that understand this are building "ally initiatives" that engage an ever-expanding share of their employees, and their workplace environments are reaping the benefits.
Eight Fortune 500 companies in particular have been aggressively pursuing this strategy over the past six months as part of the first-ever Workplace Ally Challenge, hosted by Friendfactor. They've collectively activated nearly 2,000 employees through 69 events and campaigns since January, building quantitatively better workplace culture as a result: for example, over 50 percent more employees say they hear colleagues speak up about LGBT issues at work. And the most successful participants have just been announced: Pacific Gas & Electric Company, ConAgra Foods, and Southern California Edison have taken home the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place honors, respectively.
PG&E's LGBT employee resource group, PrideNetwork, earned the top slot by engaging over 600 employees through a whopping 21 events and campaigns over six months. Activities included "I'm an ally" postcards and pledges, events co-hosted with other internal employee resource groups, and a campaign to raise scholarship funds for local students who have had a positive impact on the LGBT community.
"The Workplace Ally Challenge helped us make a huge push to increase PrideNetwork's visibility and impact," said Elizabeth Liedel, who chairs ally programs for the employee group. "We were able to engage 15% of the staff in our corporate headquarters, and garner support for a float in the San Francisco Pride Parade for the first time. We can feel the difference this outpouring of support has made to the company culture, and are proud to accept 1st place on behalf of PG&E."
The companies that stepped up to the Challenge, which also include Pfizer, Bank of America, and several others, were evaluated on three criteria: the percentage of their employees who participate, the number of activities they execute, and the level of LGBT awareness and inclusiveness of culture, as reported by employees in a survey distributed at the beginning and end of the Challenge. Detailed results are available on the Friendfactor website at www.friendfactor.org/workplace-ally-challenge.
All the Workplace Ally Challenge participants will be recognized for their success in creating more inclusive workplaces at Friendfactor's Ally Challenge Awards Dinner this Saturday, July 26 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. Interested companies are encouraged to apply to participate in the next Workplace Ally Challenge, which will launch in January 2015. Companies can apply through Dec 15, 2014 here.
Friendfactor is a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a world where everyone who cares about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans equality takes part in making it a reality. Learn more at www.friendfactor.org.