Citigroup Inc. already included the words sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy. The company has a gay employee resource group. It offers diversity training that includes sexual orientation, and it provides health insurance coverage to employees' same-sex partners. And now this year, the company specifically bans discrimination based on "gender identity and/or expression."
The new term covers not only gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employees, and those who are transitioning from one sex to another, but also workers who might be chided for not acting male or female enough. In adopting it, Citigroup joins a growing number of corporations in expanding the reach of protections against discrimination related to sexual identity.
The recent growth of such provisions reflects both the persistence of gay rights groups seeking the protection and the conclusion of some companies that adopting the broader anti-discrimination policies is a good business decision and even a recruiting tool.
The first company to include gender identity or expression in its corporate policy was Lucent Technologies Inc. in 1997. In 2001, 10 companies included it, and today there are 52, according to the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC), which measures and trains companies on gender policies.
In fact, 19 of the 28 companies that earned perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's annual "Corporate Equality Index" for the first time this year did so by adding gender identity to anti-discrimination policies. The number of companies that scored 100 percent doubled in one year to 56.
"It's another facet of things we recognized. Some people may feel it's already part of our [equal employment] policy. But it makes the dialogue richer. It builds inclusion," said Ana Duarte McCarthy, director of workforce diversity at Citigroup. "And HRC measures it. And as a result of having it within our policy, we got 100 percent on the corporate index."
The Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay advocacy group, issues an annual report card on how corporate America treats its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Companies were ranked for the third annual list by seven criteria: whether they have gay employee resource groups; offer benefits to same-sex partners; include the words "sexual orientation" in their primary written policies; have diversity training that includes sexual orientation; market to the gay community or provide support through corporate foundations; have no known anti-gay activities; and, now, include gender identity or expression on their non-discrimination policies.
Brad Salavich, program manager for GLBT workforce diversity at International Business Machines Corp., said that when the gay-friendly ratings were first released, it became clear that advocacy groups were looking for companies to have leading policies. "It was important for IBM to ensure that we were meeting or exceeding what other companies were doing and what the community was doing in terms of leading-edge policies," he said.
He called the gender identity clause "an important mark. It's really a bellwether statement that not just GLBT potential applicants look at, but we're also seeing it used as a bellwether for a broader set of employees."
Salavich cited a recruiting event in London at which Asian women approached an IBM table set up with GLBT materials. He recalled the women told him they were interested not because the materials affected them personally, but because "if you're the type of company with these policies, you also accept women and minorities."