Are inclusive HR policies good for a brand's PR and corporate image? That's a question many major brands are asking these days.
Consider a hot-button issue such as gender resassignment surgery, a major life change that not all companies support — or want their diversity policies known externally.
AP, reporting on the latest Corporate Equality Index published by by the Human Rights Campaign, notes that major employers including Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup and Walt Disney all now (quietly) provide transgender-inclusive health benefits for employees undergoing a sex change.
Eighty-five others, including AT&T, Sears, Yahoo!, American Express, Kraft, Kodak — which isn't alone in taking public pride in its GLBT Pride program — Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Motors and State Farm pay for a minimum of one surgery during sex reassignment, which is now considered “medically indicated” according to the American Medical Association, and not optional.
This new corporate ethos is good business – it not only creates a healthier, happier workforce, but also makes a strong human resources statement, and reinforces internal brand engagement efforts. And if not? Well, for a start, people with untreated Gender Identity Disorder are more susceptible to depression and suicide.
"We understand people simply get appendicitis, and it is something our community deals with through insurance," commented Andre Wilson, senior consultant with San Francisco-based Jamison Green & Associates. "That's what we need to understand about transsexualism. Not everybody will be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, and in fact, few people will be. But the people who are diagnosed with it really need treatment."
This year the Human Rights Campaign, America's largest gay rights advocacy group, has upped the ante for its annual Corporate Equality Index where a 100% rating is highly prized.
To comply, companies will have to offer at least one insurance plan that covers a minimum of $75,000 worth of transgender surgery.
Stephanie Battaglino, assistant VP, New York Life, is the first transgender employee at the insurer. She is lobbying New York Life to add transgender health benefits to the corporate insurance plan. Reticence to provide the full $75,000 coverage came from a fear of too many employees using the benefit.
“The big misconception is we are going to go broke and all these transgender people are going to come out of the woodwork asking for gender reassignment surgery,” she told The Daily Mail.
Experts agree that such major surgeries are not cosmetic. As stated by Joanne Herman, author of Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not, “If you are transsexual, living as anything other than that is a very bleak experience.”
For another perspective, Fred Burt wrote a piece for us about marketing to gay consumers and internal brand engagement to GLBT employees in 2005 — how far have we come since then?