Positive Exemplars: At the 2014 Corporate Equality Index Awards for LGBT Employment – New York City

Deb Friesen, MD, FACP, and Rachael St.Claire PsyD, Kaiser Permanente Colorado claim Kaiser Permanente’s earned 100% award for LGBT equality in the workplace View ‘Kaiser Permanente at the 2014 Corporate Equality Index Awards 39943’ on Flickr.com

Each year the Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) celebrates best places to work, who score 100% on the Corporate Equality Index for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees. Kaiser Permanente is among this year’s 100 %  achievers, again, and is invited, along with the 303 other 100% Corporate Equality Index awardees, to receive its award in person, in New York City.

For more about this award and our 100% rating: A perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index again for 2014 | Ted Eytan, MD – and there are still only a handful of hospitals or health systems who support this level of equality for their employees.

I didn’t go this year; I went last year: 2013 HRC Corporate Equality Index Awards for LGBT employment – New York City | Ted Eytan, MD, and I’ll admit I was proud of Kaiser Permanente, however:

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.

That’s why this year I am so glad that two incredible colleagues represented Kaiser Permanente at the awards:

  • Deb Friesen, MD, FACP, an internal medicine specialist and member of the Colorado Permanente Medical Group Board of Directors
  • Rachael St.Claire, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist at Kaiser Permanente Ridgeline Behavioral Health Center

Both have led pretty amazing work in supporting health and healing for our members who are transgender. I myself went through a miniature version of a training they developed, that was impactful and normalizing (“close your eyes and think about what you would change your name to if you were transitioning”).

Here is what Rachael said:

The HRC CEI recognition program gave me a deep appreciation of the work that the HRC is dong to further equal rights for all GLBT people. Large national businesses, such as Kaiser Permanente, play the key role in the struggle for GLBT equal rights, The Civil Rights movement of our time…I was especially appreciative of the HRC giving the opportunity for a young Black transgender woman to share her story to the audience of business executives. I feel doing so really highlighted the importance of advocacy for transgender people. Of course there was so much more…

As I have been reading a lot about unconscious bias and the impact it has on our society (see this series of blog posts), I learn that one of the most important diabiasing techniques is exposure to positive exemplars in the “outgroup.” Prior to the era of transgender health coverage, it was harder to find or see positive exemplars in this community because they were denied health and lives. Now that is changing.

At the Kaiser Permanente National diversity and Inclusion Conference 2013

Deb is a cisgender heterosexual woman. Rachael is a transgender woman. They are both allies, health professionals, and wonderful colleagues. When I asked Deb why she was an ally, one of the reasons, besides the fact that she cares for people who are transgender in her practice, is because she wants her children to grow up in a world where everyone is accepted. Seeing Deb and Rachael represent our 9.3 million members and 180,000+ employees makes that happen faster.

By definition, a company can only be in this celebration if they offer trans-inclusive health benefits. Thanks Human Rights Campaign and Jeff Krehely for working to make the room we celebrate in more inclusive of all of the people we serve.

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Ted Eytan, MD