Welcoming Workplaces – The Best Gay-Friendly Companies

A record number of Fortune 500 companies are offering protections to gay and lesbian workers and their spouses. As state and local government consider anti-gay ballot initiatives in 2005, companies are making their workplaces gay-friendlier.

The Advocate Magazine has put together it seventh annual list of ten great places for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) to work. Human Rights Commission (HRC) President Joe Solmonese says, “While LGBT people struggle for equality under the law, corporations are filling the gaps where government have left Americans vulnerable.”

The Gap, with revenue of $16.3 billion and over 150,000 employees heads the list. With a Fortune 500 rating of 130 and HRC score of 100, the company has made donations to many gay and lesbian organizations. General Mills, bringing in $12.5 billion and boasting of 27,500 employees, added sexual orientation to its antidiscrimination policy in the early 1990s. Betty Crocker lent her name to the company’s LGBT employees’ group, Betty’s Family (a General Mills twist on the phrase “Friends of Dorothy”).

“This is a great company,” says gay employee Lee Anderson, manager of state and local government relations at the Minnesota-based corporation and a member of Betty’s Family since he started working at General Mills four years ago. General Mills also supports local and regional gay and lesbian groups and activities such as the Rainbow Families Conference.

A leader in asthma medications, GlaxoSmithKline, who former Olympian Florence Joyner (“FloJo) used to be a rep with her own program, has a revenue of $37.2 billion. With 100,000 employees, the company is based in the U.K. but its U.S. operations in Philadelphia and North Carolina are gay-friendly. In 2000 GlaxoSmithKline began offering benefits to same-sex couples and its North Carolina office has a popular support group for gay workers that holds social events and helps with relocation and other aspects of work and home life.

“They meet regularly and are a pretty active group,” said Patricia Self, a company spokeswoman. The company, which currently sells eight HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) medications, controls an estimated seven percent of the world’s pharmaceutical market.

Kaiser Permanente, with revenue of $28 billion and 153,000 plus employees, is the nation’s largest non-profit HMO. The company has a diverse membership in nine states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser markets directly to gay health care consumers through magazine ads and community outreach at venues such as local pride celebrations.

Olivia Cruises and Resorts, a lesbian favorite, has revenue of $14.4 million and 35 employees. In 2002 the company sold just under $7 million in exclusively gay travel packages. Olivia also stands as a leader in terms of catering to the needs of its employees, offering a complete range of standard benefits for employees and partners as well as some interesting twists like matching up to $50 in monthly public transit costs.

From its humble beginnings as a record label during the 70s, Olivia continues to look forward to the future, planning a retirement community, a broad-based rewards and discount network, and continued promotion of special events like its film festival and adventure vacation packages.

The Raytheon Company, with revenue of $20.2 billion and 80,000 worldwide employees, has a Fortune 500 rank of 103. This year the company, based in the Boston suburb of Waltham, became the first aerospace giant to achieve a rating of 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. Raytheon is also a sponsor of the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, an annual event focusing on making workplaces safer and equitable for LGBT employees.

Sprint has revenue of $27 billion and $1,000 employees nationwide. With a Fortune 500 ranking of 67 and a 100 HRC score, Sprint was criticized last year by HRC publicly for insuring employees’ pets but not their same-sex partners. After turning it around the telecommunications giant created the Spring Managing to Win program, providing 7,000 executives and manager the tools and skills required to create an inclusive work environment. Sprint established its Diversity Council in 2003 to oversee its employee affinity groups, including LGBT workers.

Viacom, with revenue of $22.5 billion and 31,653 employees, has a Fortune 500 ranking of 69. Most important, however, are its internal policies. Viacom does not have a specific LGBT employee group but doesn’t feel the need to start one.

Washington Mutual has revenue of $11.7 billion and 2,579 employees. The company has a ranking of 131 by Fortune 500. Three years ago Tom Morgan was being recruited by Seattle-based Washington Mutual but he and his partner were reluctant to leave Boston.

“They arranged for a gay-friendly realtor to take us around and it was really a first-class experience,” says Morgan, senior vice-president of technology solutions.

The company began offering health insurance to same-sex domestic partners in 199 and includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policies. In addition, the company regularly sponsors LGBT events including pride festivals and the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Wyndham International, with revenue of $943.8 million and 18,500 employees, is one of the largest brands in the lodging industry. The company actively courts gay and lesbian travelers – it was one of the first chains to have an ad campaign targeted at gay consumers. Wyndham’s success with gays and lesbians is one of the few bright spots in its financial performance lately. Still thanks to the company’s generous gay-friendly benefits, treatment of LGBT employees, and outreach to gays, the Orlando Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa in Florida was named the official hotel of Gay Day 2004 and 2005 at Disney World.

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