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How LGBTQ Advocates Can Realize Workplace Equality

Photo: Courtesy of José Martín Ramírez C

Workplace equality isn’t politics for me — it’s personal. I learned the hard way what it’s like to feel as if you must choose between a career you love and the person you love. Working hard at a career that values your contributions is a core part of the American dream, and no one should be denied that dream just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Two decades of progress

In 1996 only 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their company nondiscrimination policies. Working with business leaders from across the country, our community has made incredible progress toward workplace equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) people.

Today, an astounding 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies embrace LGBTQ employees though nondiscrimination policies, and 82 percent include gender identity.

Corporate leadership

It may come as a surprise to learn that while federal nondiscrimination policy has stalled, businesses across the United States have recognized that the best way to recruit and retain top talent is to welcome all qualified applicants and employees, including LGBTQ people.

And we’re not going back. Business leaders remain committed as ever to welcoming LGBTQ people and creating workplaces where all employees can thrive. But good business practices are no substitute for basic civil rights.

What we still need

Currently, there is no federal law barring employment discrimination for LGBTQ people. In 28 states, you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday just for being lesbian or gay. It’s 30 states if you are transgender.

We can look for best practices in the business community as we speak up for federal nondiscrimination laws that embrace everyone, including LGBTQ people.

Selisse Berry, Founder and CEO, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, [email protected]

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