NGLTF Creating Change session on Corporate Ballot Initiative Support
One of the sessions I went to at Creating Change last week was about increasing corporate support for LGBT Ballot Initiatives. I am a corporate minion and on the board of my company’s LGBT employee group, aka Employee Resource Group (ERG). I was very curious to see what the panel had to say. I’d previously attempted to get our company to take a position on CA Prop 8, unfortunately to no avail. I was looking for tactics or data that would help me make the case to my management. Ideally, i was hoping for pre-created business cases for how these rights positively impact our bottom line. I was disappointed.
The session focused itself on “Ballot Initiatives” however, I didn't hear anything that was specific to Ballot Initiatives that could not apply just as well to any corporation supporting any type of LGBT rights enhancement. Ballot Initiatives are one, but legislative bills are another.
Overall the session gave a lot of data on the historical trend of increasing corporate support and a somewhat rudimentary taxonomy of the internal groups within a company that should be engaged in order to succeed. If you haven’t been to Out and Equal, or this is your first time approaching a local corporation for their support, this was a good primer.
Aside from this, there wasn’t much distinction between seeking money and seeking a public endorsement, which is significant. Money can be given quietly or indirectly. A public statement is just that; public. The former is really a cost analysis question, where as the other is a moral one. Achieving these require different tactics and are dependent on different groups of people buying in.
Either way, with the ongoing recession, we should be realistic about what we can get money-wise.
The HRC factor
Lately the No on Prop8 campaign has been hoarding all the scrutiny and criticism. That’s just unfair and wrong! Let’s share some with our good friends at the HRC.
The most interesting thing I heard that might impact companies’ actions around being publicly supportive of LGBT rights legislation or ballot initiatives came not as a part of the presentation, but what seemed to be a fit of exasperation.
It is too easy to achieve a perfect “100” score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). I don’t mean to diminish the tremendous value of the criteria that a corporation must meet in order to score that high. They are important, very important.
If we really believe that corporate support for the advancement of our rights is critical; If we really want to raise the bar on what we expect from employers of gay people, then we need to stop rewarding them for failing to do so. We need to raise the bar of what’s required to achieve a score of 100.
For simplicity, lets work with 2 points for now. A company should only be able to earn these points if they can prove that they supported a state (1 point) and national (1 point) policy for the advancement of LGBT rights.'
If a company refuses to take an LGBT positive position on such a policy in their state, or nation, they lose these points.
This would likely mean that most companies that meet today’s bar for 100, would be at 98.
If the number “100” is too attractive to the marketroids and they afraid of insulting otherwise LGBT friendly companies, perhaps the max score should be 102. Space shuttle engines can provide thrust greater than 100%, why can’t the CEI? These could be bonus points.
Perhaps companies that do these courageous acts could get discounts on sponsorships of our events or formal dinners.
I know our legal, PR and recruiting folks pay attention to the CEI score. So do progressive potential employees. I’m not saying that making such a change will automagically cause all companies to come out for us. However, pushing companies to take these positions is herding cats, uphill. Making such a change will make that hill a bit less steep. That may just be what we, as ERG leaders, need to push it over the top.
The key is that we’re not using our carrot and stick very well here. We need incentives for companies to act. There needs to be a few extra points up there that can only be earned by companies that can prove that they took a stance in support of actual legislation for the advancement of LGBT rights.