Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Student for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College, which addressed the ability to use race as a factor in private college admissions, and recent attacks on policies like ESG and DEI – many business leaders, media figures, and politicians have questioned whether such so-called “woke” initiatives violate federal law. Some have even argued that risk-averse companies should abandon diversity initiatives altogether to avoid scrutiny. In this context, it is important to refocus on the purpose of these initiatives.
Pictured above: John Richards, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, speaking at Out Leadership’s US Summit 2023 VIP Reception hosted by Greenberg Traurig.
Despite the discourse, neither the recent Supreme Court ruling nor congressional hearings on ESG, have changed the core tenets of federal employment law, which still outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex, including on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Regardless of political views, religious beliefs, or cultural disposition, employers are required to ensure workers are judged fairly, disciplined consistently, paid equitably, and managed appropriately. Equity-based initiatives are thus not malicious engines of a political agenda but mechanisms through which companies may comply with federal law.
Furthermore, as business leaders, we have a responsibility to dismiss blanket, bald, and unsupported claims that DEI and ESG programs are divisive. In fact, such programs, when properly administered, are critical to business success. They create fair and equitable work environments where all employees can rise or fall based on merit. In a way, the conversation about employment law has become overcomplicated. The reality is simple: inclusive programs create environments where employees can be judged by their achievements, and not by who they love or the color of their skin – which is good for workers and crucial to businesses’ bottom lines. As leaders advocating for LGBTQ+ equality, we must continue to hone and spread this message.
Labor Day serves as a perfect occasion to encourage your employer to improve the treatment of LGBTQ+ employees. Out Leadership diagnostic tools like OL-iQ can help your business identify gaps in your organization’s structures and policies that affect the treatment of LGBTQ+ employees. Out Leadership’s pioneering Out to Succeed research can help your firm stay competitive as new generations of talent enter the workforce, and their insights on Self-ID can help your company effectively allocate resources to serve LGBTQ+ employees, and their talent development programs – OutNEXT, OutWOMEN+, and OutQUORUM can bolster your business’ bench of formidable LGBTQ+ talent.
This is not a moment to back down or cower. We should and must defend proper and well-intentioned ESG strategies and DEI initiatives because it is the right thing to do; because it reduces businesses’ exposure to liability for discrimination; and because it. empowers and enables employees to spend more time creating value for customers and shareholders and less time worrying about their identities.
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Retail Industry Group – Global Co-Chair
Greenberg Traurig has been one of Out Leadership’s largest member investors for over 6 years. Brian Duffy, CEO of Greenberg Traurig, serves on Out Leadership’s Global Advisory Board.
Here’s what you need to know…
The lavender labor force is looming with 1 in 5 Gen Z adults identifying as LGBTQ+ in the United States.
Pictured above: OutNEXT Global Summit 2022 proudly sponsored by Citi.
According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 20.8% of Gen Z adults identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s twice the proportion of millennials (10.5%), five times the share of Gen X (4.2%) and nearly tenfold the number of baby boomers (2.6%), who openly identify as LGBTQ+. Across all adults in the US, 7.1% identify as LGBTQ+, or about one in every 14.
Americans are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ due to changing societal norms that have made LGBTQ+ people more accepted in society, encouraging individuals to live openly (as opposed to previous generations who may have remained closeted). Furthermore, a large share of LGBTQ+ in past generations has tragically died due to the AIDS epidemic.
With increasing numbers of LGBTQ+ individuals in the labor force, employers seeking to attract and retain the best talent will need to bolster their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to provide the support, mentorship, and career advancement opportunities necessary to cater to outstanding LGBTQ+ workers.
LGBTQ+ employees face significant challenges in the workplace.
According to the Williams Institute:
46% of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives
57% of LGBTQ+ employees reported the unfair treatment was motivated by religious beliefs
50% of LGBTQ+ employees are not out to their current supervisor and 26% are not out to any coworkers
38% of LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing harassment at work
36% of LGBTQ+ employees of color reported experiencing verbal harassment as opposed to 26% of white LGBTQ+ employees
34% of LGBTQ+ employees have left a job due to treatment by their employer
Anti-LGBTQ+ laws create a brain drain of top workers. Just ask Dr. Kleinmahon.
Pictured above: Dr. Jake Kleinmahon with his husband and two children
In Louisiana, Dr. Jake Kleinmahon is the director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure, and ventricular assist device program at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans – one of just three doctors in his specialty in the state. His hospital is the only medical center in the state that performs pediatric heart transplants.
Now, due to a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed by a Republican-controlled legislature over the vetos of Democratic Governor Jon Bel Edwards, Dr. Kleinmahon and his husband are leaving the state and abandoning their plans to retire in New Orleans.
The couple has stated that they must prioritize their own children, lamenting that they cannot raise their kids in such a hostile environment.
The effects are devastating – and it’s not just heart doctors. Louisiana legislators’ anti-LGBTQ+ policies will drive thousands of qualified LGBTQ+ and ally employees from the state. And it’s Louisiana communities and business owners who will suffer the consequences and lost economic output of this senseless hate.
Louisiana was ranked 48th of 50 states in the Out Leadership 2023 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index.
Leaders can fight economic stagnation by ending discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees.
Pictured above: Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director, the Williams Institute at UCLA, and Amber Hikes, Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture, the ACLU, at Out Leadership’s US Summit 2023 VIP Reception.
In a Williams Institute study of 39 countries, including 29 “emerging economies” and 10 countries with “active and engaged LGBT social movements” which also are of particular significance to global institutions, researchers found a positive correlation between per capita GDP and legal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
The study also enumerated a number of micro-level factors by which the mistreatment of LGBTQ+ individuals dampens economic growth:
Police unfairly arrest, detain, hurt, and mistreat LGBTQ+ individuals, which can remove productive workers unnecessarily from the labor market.
LGBTQ+ people endure more violence, which harms their physical and mental health, making it hard to work due to injuries, emotional pain, and other stressors.
Unfair treatment at work leads to LGBTQ+ folks being unemployed or underemployed, meaning their full productive capacity is underutilized.
Healthcare discrimination hinders LGBTQ+ individuals’ ability to work and be productive if they are unable to work due to illness.
LGBTQ+ students face bias from teachers and peers, hurting their learning, causing dropouts, and reducing workplace competency.
Based on this evidence, global corporations would benefit financially by leveraging their economic power to advocate for positive change on LGBTQ+ issues wherever they do business – advancing human, civil, and political rights worldwide while simultaneously improving profits for shareholders.
Out Leadership is empowering the next generation of LGBTQ+ workers worldwide.
On September 28th, Out Leadership will preview the most seminal report on global LGBTQ+ talent in history. This groundbreaking study, which surveyed thousands of LGBTQ+ workers and their employers around the globe, is an essential tool for leaders in business who seek to attract and retain the brightest LGBTQ+ talent.
In today’s competitive business landscape, embracing LGBTQ+ inclusion isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic advantage. Research consistently shows that companies fostering diverse and inclusive environments outperform their peers. As a leader, you have the opportunity to drive change and harness the potential of LGBTQ+ talent.
If you’d like to join Out Leadership and Out For Undergrad in this trailblazing endeavor, you can sponsor Out To Succeed 2.0.
Sponsored by O4U:
Out Leadership’s OutNEXT Global Summit is Less than a Month Away!
September 27, 2023 | 9:00 AM-7:00 PM ET
September 28, 2023| 9:00 AM-4:00 PM ET
Location: Citi Headquarters, 45 Hubert St, New York, NY 10013
Don’t forget to nominate attendees before it’s too late!
OutNEXT is our world-class leadership program for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders, now in its 12th year. It’s hosted by Proud Sponsor Citi and their fabulous HQ in New York, with attendees from all over the world.
The summit will be jam-packed with superstars including Women’s World Cup soccer legend and Gotham’s own Ali Krieger, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Global Head of Talent, Erika Irish Brown, CEO of Transhealth, Dallas Ducar, and artist and activist, Victor Jeffries among others. Immerse yourself in unparalleled networking opportunities and discover how to harness your identity for success through insights shared by industry trailblazers. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!
Global OutNEXT Sponsor:
Instructions for Out Leadership member firms to nominate a rising star at your company in the Out Leadership Member Portal.
Make sure your team never misses an update.