How Gay-Friendly is that Company?

You are anxiously counting down the hours until tomorrow morning. That is when you have an interview with the company that is well on its way to offering you a dream job. But how gay-friendly is the company? And even if it is, is it financially solvent?

Don’t assume, because there are laws to protect you, that the company follows them – or is happy about those laws. Also, proving a company flagrantly disobeys anti-discrimination laws can be pretty hard to do. And, you probably want to know how gay-friendly it is, not just whether it follows the minimum standard of applicable laws.

If the company is publicly traded, or a larger, well-known private firm, check Hoovers ( Look for the references in the lower right hand corner of the web page which refer you to other sites as well. These often contain information about a company’s human rights, environmental, civil rights, and/or philanthropy status.

Of course, if the company has a web site, that should also be a part of your research. Such information needs to be taken with a grain of salt, of course. The company is not likely to divulge that it has pending lawsuits on its web site, although if it has sections marked “investor relations” and/or “community involvement”, those are mandatory reading. (Community involvement will tell you what priorities they have when it comes to charities – which essentially tells you about the company’s value system in a nutshell. Investor relations will provide a lot of data they are required to provide – probably not much on gay-friendliness, but do make sure they are making money.)

Better still, look for the company web site through a good search engine (such as Google, Look through the entries carefully to see what kind of third-party reporting comes up in your search. Gratefully, although companies can control what goes on their web site, they are less successful controlling what is reported to the media. Since most newspapers are online, do a search within their web site for any information relating to the company.

Be sure you pay attention to all work-related news and disputes. If the company has been disrespectful to older workers, women, and/or minorities, there’s a very good chance it is not too friendly towards gays and lesbians. Pay attention to what seems like run-of-the-mill business news, too. Set it aside and look at it when you have completed your research. Sometimes, what at first seemed like an innocent news item reveals a pattern that throws up a warning sign, whether the issue is gay-friendliness or something else. (For instance, is the company always losing money, and always due to one-time charges?)

But what do you do if the company is privately held, doesn’t get much press, and is interested in hiring you? You will need to rely on your own sleuthing a bit more, but can still gain meaningful information about working for the company. Before you go in for an interview, ask for literature about the company, and read it carefully. Some companies inadvertently reveal their biases in their own literature. Does the company talk about moving from one location to another due to a “better business climate”? Does it discuss selling off or acquiring various divisions or plants? If it does, that may be a clue that part of the “better business climate” is less stringent enforcement of discrimination laws. Where did the company move from, and where is it moving to? Do a web search again to determine laws in the old and new states. (This isn’t a surefire indication the company is homophobic or discriminatory – but it is a sign to exercise caution and do more investigation.)

When you go for an interview, look around. Does everyone look alike? (There should be diversity to reflect the area you live in – in other words, more in areas like New York, less in areas where the population is more homogenous.) If the company is a start-up, have they hired outside their immediate circle of friends, or has everyone graduated from the same college and worked at the same large company before being hired? If they haven’t hired a diverse work force up to now, are you sure you want to “break in” the company on the benefits of diversity? (If you are willing to risk asking it, say something to your interviewer like, “Gee, it sounds like everyone here graduated from Harvard and worked for XYZ Corp. Why would the company be interested in hiring a gay man who went to NYU?” The reaction will give you a pretty good gauge as to whether they can handle diversity or not.)

When it comes time for you to ask questions towards the end of the interview, ask about the company’s community involvement. (Say something fairly noncommittal, like you believe in giving back to the community, and wonder what the company does to that end.) If they have a list of their activities, ask for a copy. Who do they give to and why?

At the close of the interview, ask for literature which will help you get a better understanding of the company, such as their Employee Handbook or work rules. Again, read them carefully and search for clues.

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