BY Tom Ciuba
Twenty years ago, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) launched the first Corporate Equality Index (CEI) to measure U.S. companies’ support for LGBTQ+ employees. The CEI examines corporate policies and actions as well as employees’ overall experiences to determine a firm’s commitment to equality and inclusion.
Thirteen companies scored 100 percent in that inaugural index, earning the coveted “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” designation.
Fast forward two decades, this year’s CEI saw 842 companies nationwide receive a perfect score, 15 of which operate in Connecticut. Here is a look at just some of the practices and initiatives that contributed to their ranking:
AQR Capital Management
Headquartered in Greenwich, AQR is a global investment management firm. The company’s founding partners serve as executive sponsors for various diversity and inclusion initiatives, including the AQR Pride community for LGBTQ+ and allied employees to promote inclusivity in AQR’s recruiting, philanthropy, networking and education efforts. The firm’s HR team has also established a partnership with Out for Undergrad, an organization that connects high-achieving LGBTQ+ students with professional mentors.
Based in Stamford, BlueTriton makes and distributes bottled water throughout North America via Arrowhead, Deer Park, Poland Spring and other highly recognizable brand names. Among the company’s employee engagement groups is the Pride Alliance, which empowers colleagues to live their most authentic selves in and outside the workplace. BlueTriton has also given public support to the United Nations Standards of Conduct, which aims to tackle corporate discrimination worldwide. The firm has ensured equitable healthcare benefits are extended to transgender employees.
This Ridgefield-based corporation develops pharmaceutical solutions for humans and animals. It hosts Courageous Conversations, which are scheduled blocks of time for employees to come together and gain a better understanding of one another and encourages participation in the company’s Working With PRIDE business resource group that has about 200 members. Extensive medical, surgical and wellness coverage for nonbinary and transitioning employees and their dependents is also offered, and gender identity and expression workshops are held frequently.
Westport’s Bridgewater is a global asset management firm. The company’s B Proud network of LGBTQ+ and allied employees works to attract LGBTQ+ talent as well as form partnerships with external organizations and communities that promote diversity and inclusion. Steven Kryger, Bridgewater’s team lead for emerging markets research, was named in Yahoo Finance’s “2021 OUTStanding LGBT+ Executive Role Model List” for making the firm a more welcoming company for all.
This health insurance behemoth has headquarters in Bloomfield. Cigna supports LGBTQ+ employees through its 1,100-member Pride employee resource group, which has recently hosted programs on Transgender Visibility Day and issues affecting LGBTQ+ seniors. The group also offered training on LGBTQ+ health issues to more than 600 clinicians as well as transgender inclusion awareness for all employees.
Diageo North America
A national company with an office in Stamford, Diageo oversees renowned alcohol brands, including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys, and Guinness. The business boasts multiple global Rainbow Networks that strive to ensure that contributions from LGBTQ+ employees are respected and embraced. During Pride Month 2021, a rainbow flag was displayed at all offices and production sites around the world. The company also hosted a virtual HIV awareness session and a program on being trans and gender-expansive that was co-sponsored by the Transgender Law Center, The LGBT Center and The Human Rights Campaign.
Based in Norwalk, FactSet develops software solutions for investment professionals around the world. One of the firm’s four diversity pillars is creating an inclusive culture, aimed at “enabling people to be themselves at work and have opportunities to join in, be heard, contribute, and grow.” FactSet’s Pride business resource group supports the recruitment, development and retention of LGBTQ+ employees.
Housed in Stamford, Gartner develops data-analysis solutions for companies. Their Pride at Gartner employee resource group develops educational programs and policies that increase understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. During the pandemic last year, the company hosted a virtual Pride parade with more than 150 participants and sponsored a keynote address from out tennis player Gigi Fernandez, who spoke about LGBTQ+ parenthood and intersectional identities.
Based in—you guessed it—Hartford, this home, auto and business insurance provider serves the entire U.S. The company’s SHINE program provides leadership development and training to members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. For Pride Month 2021, The Hartford held a discussion about being both LGBTQ+ as well as a person of color and made donations to several organizations, including The Trevor Project. The sign atop the firm’s headquarters building gets lit in rainbow colors each June as well as in blue and pink for Transgender Visibility Day each March.
Headquartered in Farmington, Otis manufactures, installs and maintains elevators and escalators around the world. This April, Otis launched a new Gender Identity & Expression Policy in its Americas region to affirm the right of all colleagues to freely express gender identity at work. Otis is also extending its global Employee Assistance Program benefits to all spouses and domestic partners, regardless of gender. And its LGBTQ+ employee resource groups around the world—PRIDE in the U.S., Elevar in Latin America and Together in the U.K. —are collaborating to foster fellowship and promote equity throughout the organization.
Known for its shipping and mailing solutions, Pitney Bowes calls Stamford home. In the last few years, the company has expanded its LGBTQ+ Council and launched an inclusion network, enhanced new-manager training to highlight bias, incorporated inclusive language into all policies and established means for LGBTQ+ employees to self-identify in the firm’s HR system.
Stanley Black & Decker
New Britain’s Stanley has manufactured tools and equipment for the housing, do-it-yourself, construction and security sectors since 1843. The company’s Pride and Allies employee resource group hosts events and activities aimed at maintaining a positive work environment for people of all gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations. Stanley also became a member of the Human Rights Campaign Business Coalition for the Equality Act and drove efforts for supplier diversity by joining the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
This consumer financial-services firm is located in Stamford. In 2021, Synchrony donated $75,000 to the LGBTQ Youth Scholarship in addition to $25,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours at Pride events across multiple cities. The company hosted an internal Pride campaign as well, kicked off with a message from the CEO to all employees.
This multinational media services conglomerate, located in Stamford, has a Pride at Work business resource group that assists in building equitable professional development, recruitment and retention opportunities as well as in identifying unique market prospects. The organization recently placed emphasis on domestic partner benefits, transgender benefits and LGBTQ+ inclusion in supplier diversity programs.
Headquartered in Norwalk, Xerox offers hardware/equipment and software to help businesses in their day-to-day. Of note, the company has scored 100 percent on the HRCF CEI all 20 years. Xerox’s resource group for LGBTQ+ employees, entitled GALAXe, was founded in 1988 and now has more than 400 members worldwide. Both employees and prospective candidates can identify sexual orientation and gender identity in HR systems. And the company encourages employees to use pronouns in their email signature.
Also noteworthy are these Connecticut companies that incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their corporate strategy:
Norwalk’s Booking Holdings owns numerous travel and entertainment reservation platforms, including Kayak, OpenTable, CheapFlights and Priceline. The company has a B.Proud employee resource group, and in 2021 hosted LGBTQ+-focused recruiting events as well as donated to The Trevor Project.
Headquartered in Stamford, Charter delivers broadband network connectivity to customers across the U.S. Their LGBTQ business resource group is partnering with the company’s procurement team to expand supplier diversity. Charter recently sponsored the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce conference with more than 1,400 LGBTQ+ business leaders gathered to explore business development opportunities.
Comcast of Western New England
With its Western New England division operating out of Berlin, Comcast provides cable, internet and other telecommunications services to consumers and businesses. The company’s OUT employee resource group empowers colleagues at all levels of the organization to enhance inclusion. Comcast Western New England has been a premier sponsor of the Hartford Pride Parade and a participant in Middletown’s Pride Parade.
Located in Rocky Hill, Henkel delivers innovations within the adhesive technologies, beauty, and laundry and home care industries. Last June, Henkel joined Out Leadership, the largest coalition of global companies working to enhance LGBTQ+ equality. The organization also has a Pride-centric network for employees.
Operating out of Danbury, Linde is a global provider of industrial gas and engineering solutions. Emphasizing allyship, the company’s resource group for LGBT employees partnered with the resource group focused on African culture and heritage in June 2020 to amplify the role that Black experiences have played in Pride Month and LGBTQ+ history.
Enfield’s LEGO partners with global organizations such as Workplace Pride, Stonewall and Open for Business to shape strategies and programs that support both employees who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies across the company. In 2021, LEGO released two LGBTQ-themed sets in honor of Pride.
Middlesex Health sponsors Middletown’s annual Pride event with participation from members of its MH+ Pride employee resource group. The hospital distributed employee pronoun badges across the system and established the Center for Gender Medicine and Wellness, aimed at offering equitable and inclusive care to transgender, gender-non-conforming or gender-expansive individuals.
This consumer bank has more than 40 locations in Connecticut. TD has multiple LGBTQ+ employee resource groups that focus both on internal awareness and education of LGBTQ+issues and community outreach. The company sponsors numerous Pride-centric events each year. Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is TD Bank’s groundbreaking move in 1994 as the first bank in North America to offer same-sex spousal benefits to employees.
Greenwich-based XPO is a global transportation/logistics provider. In addition to having an LGBTQ+ Employees and Allies resource group and offering medical coverage for gender-affirming treatments, XPO sponsors PFLAG as well as Lesbians Who Tech, a professional community of queer women and non-binary and transgender individuals who share a passion for technology.
What Employees Are Saying About Where They Work
“As an openly transgender woman for 14 years who leads as a client-facing account management executive and as a co-lead for our Pride ERG, I have experienced continual understanding, support and respect for who I authentically am. Cigna promotes an inclusive work environment where employees like myself are empowered to bring their whole selves to work inclusive of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation.” -Erika Askew, senior account executive at Express Scripts, a Cigna company
“Across our workforce, products and content, Comcast embraces diversity of background, perspective, culture and experience, and our mission to champion equality starts at home with our employees. As a Comcast employee and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I know my voice is valued, heard and respected and that I can confidently show up to work every day as my best, most authentic self.” -Matthew Teter, manager at Comcast’s Western New England region and Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber Board director
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a LEGO employee, I have been profoundly inspired by the values-driven diversity and inclusion momentum and super cool product and play opportunities at the LEGO Group. I work closely with leadership and a cohort of engaged employees to ensure we are always innovating to build community and make the world a better place for all children, and especially keeping in mind the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth here and abroad.” -Karen Hughes, LEGO’s principal lead of public affairs for the Americas
“I am proud to work for Otis, where I am able to bring my true self to work and have the respect of my coworkers. Over the past few years, we have developed our PRIDE employee resource group for the LGBTQ community and allies as well as many other ERGs that foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for all employees. Simple things like being supported and encouraged to use pronouns in our email signatures let other coworkers know they have a safe place or person to speak to.” -Dean Nowak, purchasing project manager at Otis
“Stanley Black & Decker does more than just accept me and my family. I am embraced, supported and valued for the experience I bring to our company as an LGBTQ+ community member, and my perspectives are sought out to ensure our community is represented. I couldn’t ask for better support or a better place to make valued contributions every day.”
-Fiona Mohring, vice president of health and group benefits at Stanley Black & Decker
“Management doesn’t just talk about diversity and inclusion. Their commitment is reflected in company policies. For example, they’ve made sure that death and adoption benefits are available to employees in non-heteronormative relationships. The bottom line is I can be my authentic self at work because that’s what Synchrony expects me to be.” -Joseph Andrasko, vice president of credit risk management at Synchrony
“As a gay executive, I am proud to work at Xerox where you can truly be yourself, everywhere. Xerox has been driving equality forward for more than a half-century and is one of only seven organizations to receive 100% on the HRCF CEI every year since the survey’s inception 20 years ago.” -Mike Feldman, executive vice president and president of Americas operations and global document services at Xerox