2013 HRC Corporate Equality Index Awards for LGBT employment – New York City

Award to Kaiser Permanente awaiting its owners – members/patients, physicians, nurses, and staff View on Flickr.com

I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Kaiser Permanente (@kpnewscenter) at the 2013 Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) reception for this year’s 252 businesses/companies who have earned 100% on the Corporate Equality Index, held in New York City. You can learn more about the index here, but it covers a range of environmental, cultural, and benefit commitments to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the workplace. There were only 13 companies at this level of achievement in 2002, pretty remarkable. It’s also remarkable that the level of achievement has been gradually raised, to be more inclusive, including benefits for medically necessary health services for trans people.

And yet, it is still not enough. For example, even if a health care company covers medically necessary care for its own employees who are trans, the other employers who purchase coverage from that company may not offer it to their employees (get it? it can be confusing). This is the purpose of the index – it does not mean “100 % perfection,” it really means leading among peers for respecting all employees regardless of their background.

To be in a room with representatives of large and small businesses for whom equality is not a question is great to see. This year, Kaiser Permanente’s affiliate Group Health Cooperative (@GroupHealth) of Washington State, has also earned a 100% rating. This is good news, and I commend Human Rights Campaign for creating visibility for the kinds of organizations people want to work for. And by the way, there is ample data to show that companies who are strong in diversity are also strong in profitability. The two go hand in hand. That’s not the reason these companies are in the room, though. They continue to dream that respect won’t be a competitive advantage, it will just be normal.

In the dreaming category, I noticed a few things.

  • Take a look at the list of health care organizations on the list. It’s short. There are 5,724 hospitals in the United States. Health care has work to do when it comes to respecting its workforce. People like me won’t work at a place that doesn’t have a 100% rating, especially when we have choices of organizations that do have one.
  • HRC has done (truly) wonderful work clarifying what equal treatment means for trans people in the work place, I did not see enough visible consideration of trans people at the event, especially when there is such a gap in society, and this is a new, and supportive part of the index. It’s time. And I have a lot more reading to do :).

I think I’d like to say based on my own experience that beneath the smiles and the levity, the people in these rooms are truly on a mission to make things better for the people who come after them. It’s an honor to be in an organization that fosters passion for a better future for all, and in a room where 100% is not good enough. Thank you, HRC, Kaiser Permanente, Group Health, all of the other health and non-health organizations who are leading in caring.

Ted Eytan, MD