Saturday, December 17, 2005

In business, reframing the issue may help gays

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This week we saw the Ford Motor Company (by the way I am a very proud, gay driver of a Ford F-150) thrown around from one side of the arena to the other. First, Ford was attacked by the anti-gay American Family Association, which seeked to have Ford stop all of its advertising in the gay media. It worked for a while, until the major LGBT groups stepped up to meet with Ford. Now news has turned up suggesting that Ford's reversal on the gay media might have had more to do with pressure from stockholders rather than pressure from LGBT groups. In the article about shareholder pressure I found a very interesting quote from New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi:
Hevesi not only pointed out the importance of diversity, but the importance of being seen as unbiased. He also noted that the LGBT market is worth an estimated $610 billion annually.
I think that it is time for gays to reframe our issues within the business world. Businesses could care less about civil and human rights or equality. It all comes down money and whether they are or aren't making it. With such a high amount of buying power it is no wonder that over 92% of Fortune 500 companies protect employees from discrimination based upon sexual orientation. During the past Greensboro city elections (see News), gay/les/bi/trans issues were addressed, mainly in respect to the city's non-discrimination policies and the possibility of offering domestic partner benefits to employees. I believe I had even emailed in some suggestions for questions along these lines for the candidate forum held by Greensboro bloggers. During my talks with friends and colleagues, I've become aware that there is a current push, however small, to get the City of Greensboro to offer these benefits. I haven't heard anything from Winston-Salem, but I sure hope someone is pushing this there. The organizers of the local push need to frame the issue within the context of business. As quoted above, the LGBT market is worth more than $610 billion annually. As a growing city, Greensboro is well on its way to becoming a major player in North Carolina business, as well as in business in the South. The same is true for the City of Winston-Salem. Both cities need to offer domestic partership benefits to LGBT folk. They also need to create policies which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in city hiring and require all contractors with the city to have the same employment policies. All of this may be about equality and civil rights but it is also just as much about business and making sure that Greensboro and Winston-Salem can compete within the modern business marketplace. Why in the world would businesses want to move their headquarters or other operations to a place which did not offer its employees full benefits? How many employees would they lose because of such a move? Most importantly, how much money would they lose? It is important to note that the largest of the Triad's Fortune 500 companies, Reynolds American (formerly R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Company) and Jefferson Pilot (which recently merged with Lincoln Financial) both protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, according to the Equality Forum only one out of North Carolina's fourteen Fortune 500 companies does not protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination. If the two largest companies of Winston-Salem and Greensboro can take measures to protect and to provide for its LGBT employees why can't our cities do the same for its employees and citizens? What are they afraid of... the radical, religious right? Well, probably so... but they should and probably would be ignored if Greensboro and Winston-Salem ever decided to take up these issues. There are two points I am trying to make here: (1) LGBT citizens and employees of Winston-Salem and Greensboro deserve equality; and (2) It is smarter, business wise, for the Cities of Greensboro and Winston-Salem to protect LGBT citizens and employees and provide them benefits than for them not to. Civil and Human rights is cool... I'm all for it. I have worked almost tirelessly for LGBT equality since age 14, I know what equality means. But I'm also smart enough and just not too naive enough to know that in the business world cash is king. Greensboro and Winston-Salem need to step up. If not for the simple fact that it's right then for our chances at survival in America's new business markets. Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,


By the way... UNCG needs to offer its faculty and staff domestic partner benefits too.

If my sources are correct, there is either a push for domestic partnerships at App State or App is already officially considering it.

I haven't done the research but it would be nice to know how many UNC System schools do offer domestic partner benefits for its faculty and staff.