What Does ‘Out at Work’ Look Like to You?

Jun 19, 2018

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, MassBio

In our highly competitive industry, employees have more ability than ever to carefully assess job offers based on a number of factors including company culture and their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. What remains tricky for employees is how to accurately assess those things before they are hired.

Where to Look

If you were looking for new employment, you may find yourself wondering – Other than a company website, where else can I check to find out how a company supports the LGBTQ community and demonstrates their level of commitment to their LGBTQ employees? An excellent place to start is the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) published annually by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. HRC is an organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation, gender expression and identity. Companies are surveyed and rated on a scale of 0% to 100% based on several factors that demonstrate how the companies treat LGBT employees, consumers and investors. The CEI rating criteria have four key pillars:

  • Non-discrimination policies across business entities
  • Equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families
  • Internal education and accountability metrics to promote LGBTQ inclusion competency
  • Public commitment to LGBTQ equality

The chart below is a comparison of the number of companies in the Biotech, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries that were rated at 100% on the Corporate Equality Index in 2008, 2013 and 2018.

This represents real progress but there is much more to be done. The good news is that employees are demanding better. According to Ramsey Johnson, Founder of OUTBio, a networking organization for LGBT drug development professionals, “A lot of companies now really are thinking about diversity and inclusion initiatives. There’s a lot of competition for talent in our industry, and inclusive companies are happier and more successful places to work.”

Look at What We Offer!

Companies that provide supportive and inclusive environments will reinforce their reputation and their employer brand, attracting strong candidates to fill their vacancies. By publicly signaling openness and inclusion, they will have the competitive edge in the recruitment process. 

I asked a few people in the LGBTQ community that I am close with, if given the opportunity to ask an employer-related question, what would it be?  Here are the top responses:

  • Do you offer same-sex partners benefit packages equal to those in opposite sex relationships?
  • Are people in same sex relationships encouraged to bring their significant others to company social events?
  • How do you accommodate transgender employees and assist co-workers, clients, etc. with adapting?
  • Adoption assistance and parental leave were top of mind as well.

People who feel secure in their workplace, supported by equitable policies, are more loyal and less stressed.  Talking with some of our MassBio members, here are some of the ways that they communicate internally and externally about their commitment to the LGBTQ community:

  • Support supplier diversity that include partnership programs with LGBTQ-owned businesses.
  • Public engagement, philanthropic activities and event sponsorships send a clear message to prospective LGBTQ employees that they are not only accepted by the organization but valued.
  • Have LGBTQ ERNs (employee resource network) that are financially supported, offer executive mentorships, and provide a sense of acceptance in a safe environment within the group.

Looking Forward

We are experiencing a shifting mindset and landscape where decision makers are embracing the notion that equality is good for business. Leaders want their employees to focus on maximizing their talents and skills, rather than stressing over if they can be themselves in the workplace. To have a corporate culture where LGBTQ team members are not just tolerated but are welcomed takes more than having a non-discrimination policy, a perfect score on the CEI or being on a ‘Best Places to Work’ list. These actions are putting us on the right path, however this will not make the problems that the LGBTQ community deal with go away. The change will come through a sustainable, long-term commitment and from having a deeper understanding of others from within ourselves.

And, don’t forget . . .

MassBio and OUTBio are joining forces to celebrate Pride Month and reinforce the importance of an open and inclusive culture in the life sciences industry. With the support of our sponsors – Allsteel, Biogen, Frequency Therapeutics and Third Rock Ventures, ‘Pride Is In Our DNA’ Mixer is on Thursday, June 22nd at 4pm, held at Allsteel on 200 State Street in Boston. This event will bring together the biotech LGBTQ community to increase awareness of resources, provide support and connect with individuals and organizations that align with their values. All are welcome, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Click here to register.

Also, we encourage all attendees to join us after at the City of Boston Celebration: Donna Summer Roller Disco Party on City Hall Plaza at 6p. During the Disco era, there was a strong sense of inclusion and acceptance of all people, no matter straight, gay, black, white, old, young, etc. It opened a space for the redefinition of gender ideologies and disrupted traditional boundaries of gender identity. Biotech is all about disruption and ‘disco’very. See you there!

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