A comprehensive, 10-year study of Fortune 500 companies has conclude that greater gender diversity at boardroom level makes for a far more inclusive workplace for LGBT people.
The study has been published by SAGE in the journal of Human Relations, in partnership with The Tavistock Institute.
The report’s authors note that non-discrimination policies and domestic partner health insurance benefits are implemented only with the support of top leadership.
They looked at whether the gender of the CEO influenced the likelihood of a company having LGBT inclusive policies, and then at the gender diversity of that company’s board. On both counts, it looked at the years 2001-2010.
It concluded that although the gender of a company’s CEO had an influence on its LGBT-friendly credentials, that influence was far more pronounced if there was diversity across the whole boardroom.
‘While women CEOs are vital for advancing a company’s commitment to domestic partnership benefits and gender identity non-discrimination polices, diverse boards are associated with the full range of LGBT-inclusive policies and practices,’ the author’s concluded.
‘Firms with a higher percentage of women on the board and those with influential women board members are more likely than other firms to adopt a broad range of LGBT- friendly policies and practices.’
‘Our study suggests that diversity advocates committed to advancing inclusive policies – including but perhaps not limited to policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity – should prioritize board diversity.’
In a press statement, one of the report’s co-authors, Alison Cook, Associate Professor at Utah State University, commented, ‘Our study is important because it shows that leadership diversity can significantly influence a company’ likelihood of adopting inclusive polices.
‘Gender diversity in the boardroom is key; women directors increase a company’s commitment to equity and fairness and advance firms’ strategic goals.’
In terms of measuring a company’s LGBT-inclusiveness, the author’s made use of Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index – a ranking of US corporations based on their policies regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender staff.
Deena Fidas, head of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, and co-author of the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, told Gay Star Business, ‘Corporate LGBT inclusion is inextricably linked to race, gender and other salient attributes in the workplace. It’s not surprising then, that corporate boards with greater gender diversity reflect corporations that also value and engage LGBT diversity.’
The report was welcomed by others working in the field of LGBTI diversity and inclusion. Selisse Berry, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said, ‘It’s empowering to see that companies with a diverse board of directors are more likely to foster open and inclusive workplaces for LGBT employees and it’s not surprising that women understand the value of diversity and are willing to invest in developing it.
‘We all have attributes, skills and life experiences that contribute to the success of our work environment – LGBT employees are no different. Having a diverse board of directors that understands this helps bring together varied perspectives and ideas while also sending a strong message to LGBT employees that they are respected and valued.’
‘We strongly believe that increasing diversity within corporate governance structures has important direct and indirect impacts on company cultures and bottom-lines,’ said Juan Herrera, Director of Talent Initiatives at Out Leadership.
‘Our initiative Quorum, dedicated to increasing representation of LGBT directors on corporate boards, is particularly focused on the way that the intersectional nature of the LGBT community creates the opportunity for businesses to diversify their boards in more than one way at a time.’