Out Leadership releases the annual State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for 2021
OL also releases “A Business Guide for Transgender Equality” empowering leaders to invest in equality, protect LGBTQ+ employees.

June 1, 2021, New York, US

NEW YORK – Out Leadership, the premier global network for LGBTQ+ business leaders and companies, today unveiled the State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for 2021 and accompanying U.S. State CEO Business Briefs.

The 3rd annual “State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index,” is being published against a backdrop of sustained attacks on transgender and LGBTQ+ rights in state legislatures around the US. The top 5 states were New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont while the bottom 5 states were Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

The State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index gives each state a score out of 100 points, based on 20 carefully selected and nuanced markers assessing LGBT+ people’s lived experiences across 5 broader categories including Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections, Youth and Family Support, Political & Religious Attitudes, Health Access and Safety, Work Environment and Employment.

The 2021 Index results reveal some significant shifts, driven largely by the landmark win for LGBTQ+ workplace equality (Clayton Vs Bostock) at the Supreme Court. At the same time, the coordinated legislative pushback against LGBTQ+ rights on a state level have caused some states to fall farther behind when it comes to protecting their LGBTQ+ citizens.

2021 Highlights:

  • New York moved up from ninth to claim the number 1 position, knocking Massachusetts off top perch for the first time. Driving this change were increased public funding for HIV medical care and a decision by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that the state would stop prosecuting sex workers.
  • Maine, moved from 17th to fourth following the addition of updated ID options adding – nonbinary and removing barriers such as doctors notes and proof of surgery. Another positive move was a bill introduced in May 2021 that would allow incarcerated trans people to be housed according to their gender identity.
  • Virginia moved from 23rd to 15th following the addition of comprehensive LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, specifically when it comes to housing, employment, public places, and credit applications. “This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.
  • Kansas moved up 9 spots to 24th because of court decisions affirming non-discrimination protections at the state level in response to Bostock v. Clayton, more counties in Kansas banning conversion therapy, and Governor Kelly’s veto of proposed anti-transgender legislation by the state legislature. Conversely, those states that have passed draconian anti-trans legislation this year have seen this impact their ranking with Indiana dropping down 11 places to 37th
  • Arkansas dropped from 42nd to 46th following the passage of anti-trans legislation
  • South Carolina is the lowest ranked of all 50 states for the second year running

“The past 12 months have brought a confluence of paradigm-shifting events beyond the COVID-19 pandemic: the nationwide anti-racism protests, a presidential election, the favorable US Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ+ workplace equality (Clayton Vs Bostock), and coordinated attacks on transgender rights in state legislatures. What these events have shown us is that the path to full equality for the LGBTQ+ community — and for all Americans — is fragile.” said Out Leadership Founder & CEO Todd Sears.

“With the intensifying attacks on transgender rights, targeting the most vulnerable among us, trans youth, it is more important than ever for us to ask questions, educate ourselves, and work together to fight discriminatory legislative bills and enact policies to protect and support all members of the LGBTQ+ community.” said Out Leadership Founder & CEO Todd Sears. “The 2021 LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index, along with the updated State CEO Business Briefs released today reveal the impact of the nationwide coordinated anti-transgender legislation in state-by-state rankings on LGBTQ+ inclusion.”

“States that have comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people are better for business, plain and simple.”

  • By June 1st, 2021, just six months into the current legislative session, there have been over 130 bills filed in 35 U.S. State Houses.
  • These proposals – whether they pass or fail – are doing real harm to some of the most vulnerable and under-protected people in the country.
  • Much of the current proposed legislation around the U.S. specifically targets the physical and mental wellbeing of transgender youth.

Considering the onslaught of anti-transgender legislation being introduced around the US, Out Leadership, the oldest and largest coalition of global companies working to advance LGBTQ+ equality is releasing a Business Guide for Transgender Equality. This guide is being distributed to Out Leadership’s 80+ member firms and is available to the public on our website. This builds on a history of corporate support of transgender rights. In November 2018, Out Leadership issued the Transgender Business Statement, and to date more than 300 companies have signed on.

The world’s smartest businesses evaluate markets and economies in terms of human capital. This annual index is a tool that business leaders can use to properly weigh the economic impact of policies that are often thought of as primarily social or cultural – to see how harmful discrimination is, and how beneficial inclusive policies can be.

View the full report


About the LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index

This report provides business leaders with actionable information about the climate in which they conduct business and quantify the economic imperative for inclusion and the cost of discrimination through this transparent assessment of the landscape of LGBTQ+ inclusion in America.

Out Leadership’s LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos 6 years ago. The CEO Business Briefs for the U.S. States are an expansion of the global CEO briefs for 24 countries and have been used by hundreds of CEOs globally.

The LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index gives each state a score out of 100 points, based on 20 carefully selected and nuanced markers assessing LGBTQ+ people’s lived experiences across 5 broader categories:

Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections

  • How difficult is it to change a gender marker on a birth certificate?
  • How difficult is it to change a gender marker on a driver’s license?
  • Does the state have any employment nondiscrimination policies for LGBT+ people?
  • Do any other nondiscrimination policies in the state apply to LGBT+ people?

Youth and Family Support

  • How supportive is the state of LGBT+ people who are in or want to start families?
  • What resources are available to LGBT+ children and youth in the state?
  • Is conversion therapy banned for minors?
  • Can educators discuss LGBT+ issues and identities in schools?

 Political & Religious Attitudes

  • Has the governor recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
  • Has the junior Senator recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
  • Has the senior Senator recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
  • To what extent does the state allow for religious exemptions from its laws?

 Health Access and Safety

  • Do LGBT+ people, particularly the most vulnerable and economically precarious, have access to health care and insurance?
  • Do state employees receive transgender-inclusive health benefits?
  • Are LGBT+ people protected by any hate crimes laws in the state?
  • Is exposure of others to and transmission of HIV criminalized?

 Work Environment and Employment

  • At what rate are transgender people subjected to harassment at work?
  • What percentage of LGBT+ people are unemployed, and how does it compare to the unemployment rate of non-LGBT+ people in the state?
  • What percentage of LGBT+ people experience food insecurity, and how does it compare to the unemployment rate of non-LGBT+ people in the state?
  • What percentage of LGBT+ people have an annual income below $24,000 (approximately the federal poverty line)?

The Index was funded by the Gill Foundation, as part of its support of Out Leadership’s CEO Business Briefs for the 50 U.S. States. It is based on data generously provided by Out Leadership’s partners at the Williams Institute, the United States Transgender Survey, and the Movement Advancement Project.

About Out Leadership

Out Leadership is the oldest and largest global LGBTQ+ business advisory that partners with the world’s most influential companies to build business opportunities, cultivate talent, and drive LGBTQ+ equality forward. We believe that LGBTQ+ inclusion positively impacts business results, and that including LGBTQ+ people at the most senior level of executive leadership builds business. We call this idea Return on Equality™.

Comprising more than 80 global member firms and dedicated to cross-industry collaboration, Out Leadership is a certified B Corporation. Out Leadership convenes CEOs, business leaders and allies at exclusive invitation-only events across 4 continents. Out Leadership also operates three talent initiatives: Quorum, which aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation on corporate boards; OutNEXT, the first global talent development program for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders; and OutWOMEN, connecting senior-level LGBTQ+ women in business.




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