The students of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business value inclusivity, not only at school, but also at future workplaces. Earlier this year, Booth demonstrated commitment to inclusivity by conducting the first-ever, MBA-level lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusivity survey with campus-recruiting organizations.
Julie Morton, Associate Dean of Career Services and Employer Relations, requested information regarding employers’ diversity and inclusion policies based on the following five criteria: 1) Equal employment opportunity/non-discrimination policy; 2) Equal employment opportunity policy which includes “sexual orientation”; 3) Equal employment opportunity policy which includes “gender identity” and/or “gender expression”; 4) Equivalent same-sex partner and spousal benefits; 5) Transgender-inclusive health coverage. 45 top companies responded with mixed results.
Originally conceived by alumnus Alan Morales (MBA ‘15), the survey was developed in partnership with Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean for Alumni, Corporate Relations and the Full-time MBA Program and Clinical Professor of Economics, and student leaders Joshua Panuthos (‘16) and Melissa Liu (‘16). The goal was to empower students to make more informed decisions about where they want to work. With nearly half of summer internships secured through on-campus recruiting, employers responded positively.
“Firms’ recruiting teams were pleased we were highlighting this important issue,” explains Morton. “We have long believed that the opportunities available to our students should be commensurate with the skills and experience that they bring to the job, and should not be limited because of any qualifier, including sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Human Rights Campaign’s 2015 Corporate Equality Index found that of 781 companies surveyed, nearly all include “sexual orientation” (98%) and “gender identity” (89%) in their anti-discrimination policies. However, many lag behind the progressive line when it comes to policies that include transgender people, with only 53% offering healthcare benefits to those identifying as such. “These results are shocking,” says Antoinette King (‘17), co-chair of the African American MBA Association. “Companies must signal to society that gender identity can’t be swept aside in the greater fight for diversity and inclusion.”
Liu, a former co-chair of Booth’s LGBT+ organization, OUTreach, adds, “There are currently very few federal protections for the LGBT+ population. Our friends can still be fired or barred from housing for being gay or transgender.” Indeed, despite the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent conclusion that Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964’s “sex discrimination” prohibition clause implicitly includes “all aspects of gender identity”, the federal government remains slow to respond to LGBT+ discrimination.
29 states allow discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and 32 based on gender identity. The recent tide of anti-LGBT+ legislation, evident in states like North Carolina, shows it’s critical for private sector business leaders to stand on the right side of history. “We think that over time, companies will realize they face an ever-shrinking talent pool, as they are not only missing out on people who identify as LGBT, but on people who value equality in general,” Panuthos concludes.
While Booth’s employer survey is in no way exhaustive, it is meant to signal to firms to participate in the dialogue and communicate their specific policies with respect to inclusivity, particularly since several firms’ responses were not received. Morton cautions, “The survey went out as firms were gearing up for the heaviest recruiting season...It would be inaccurate to interpret the survey results as an exhaustive list of supportive firms.”
Shaming employers for non-participation is not productive, since many face competing deadlines and internal stakeholder pressures that carry real financial consequences. We should encourage employers by presenting students’ positions on such values. “It’s critically important for me to work in an environment that fosters diverse ideas from all individuals,” explains Doug Sexauer (‘17), a straight ally. “Including sexual orientation and gender identity helps promote that environment.”
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Morton shared the full survey results with the internal Booth community, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, legalizing LGBT+ marriage. While a celebratory moment for members of the OUTreach community, it was also a moment for allies to pledge their support. “Incorporating fully inclusive policies is a company’s commitment to having an ethical and diverse work environment,” says Jesse Taylor (‘17), a straight ally who values Booth’s commitment to diversity.
Currently, OUTreach plans to ensure the survey reaches colleagues at other business schools. Incoming OUTreach co-chair, Rachel Chamberlain (‘17), is hopeful for the future. “This is a great start. Our hope is that next year we will have higher employer participation and more schools involved. We want these results to foster dialogue at Booth and beyond about the elements of a firm’s policies and how they not only impact LGBT+ people, but everyone seeking an inclusive working environment.”
As an out and proud gay male of color, John is overjoyed by support from LGBT-identified students and allies in the Booth community.