Fortune’s home on the Internet, CNNMoney.com, is still rolling out sidebars to my Queer Inc story that appeared in the Dec. 11 issue. Yesterday, my colleague Jia Lynn Yang contributed this report about a recruiting event for gay MBAs called Reaching Out. Today, my column about Viacom’s gay channel, Logo, was posted. Logo is both a reflection of the gains made by the gay rights movement, and a force for equality; it’s the first mainstream out-of-the-closet gay media outlet.
Meanwhile, my emailbox has been full of reaction to Queer Inc.–most of it positive, some of it not so. Here are a few examples.
Shelley Alpern of Trillium and Meredith Benton of Walden, who are shareholder activists on behalf of socially responsible mutual funds, each reminded me of the role that shareholder activism has played in getting companies to treat GLBT employees fairly. I should have paid more attention to this in the story. Shelley writes:
I’ve been the coordinator for an ad hoc group of shareholder activists who have filed dozens of shareholder resolutions on this for over ten years. A few of us went to Bentonville in ’02 to give them a presentation on why they should have a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy and a gender identity/expression nondiscrimination policy. The implication was, we’ll file a resolution on this if you don’t. A few months later they did, and we never had to file. The rest is history. We had a real struggle with Chrysler about 10 years ago, and then they went on, with Ford and GM, to become real worplace leaders on LGBT issues. There have been other cases where the shareholder resolution was the wedge that opened the door; my theory is that once the nondiscrimination policy is in place, employees become emboldened to come out, set up an affinity group, and start working for DP benefits, etc.
They also note that many companies still have not included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. They will be approaching many this year to ask that they do so. The best known are ExxonMobil, Family Dollar Stores, Halliburton, Micron and Spanish Broadcasting.
Brad Salavich, an IBM executive who was interviewed for the story, sent me an email with his thoughts before the magazine hit newsstands or the article hit the Internet. When I asked how he’d seen it, he told me he’d already had three emails with a PDF version. (The source was probably the Human Rights Campaign, which got an early copy.) This led him to remind me of another force, not mentioned in the story, that helped drive the gay rights movement in business–the spread of the Internet. Brad writes:
With the number of people working on, or involved in GLBT workplace issues – news travels incredibly fast through a very efficient network. In your article you allude to the past 15 years as the time period for the focus on GLBT issues in the workplace – it’s the internet. Without it – this couldn’t happen. Gays and Lesbians have typically been early trend
adopters and there are a few studies floating around that correlate technology usage with sexual orientation.
Along comes technology that allows people to share and exchange information at relatively no cost, with no time barrier and with some built in privacy features and a natural environment is created for gays and lesbians to organize, connect and communicate – like never before.
I had a fair number of emails from readers that read like this:
I want to thank you for having printing this article, there are more gays out there than most know or think – and we should not be excluded from anything as far as I am concerned. And it would be completely IGNORANT for corporate America to ignore the fact that the majority of gays make more money than the average American. That should sum it up, and these right wing WACKO fanatic religious people are an embarrassment. They really should think about building our country instead of tearing it apart with their negative evil actions and words.
Of course, I also had some like this:
You failed to mention in your article that Walmart posted very disappointing financial results for the month. Many attribute this to their becoming ‘gay-friendly’ as you put it. Seems logical to me, they become gay-friendly and they suddenly experience their first growth decline in 10 years. Keep up the good gay story telling, its always good to know where NOT to buy my goods.
Please feel free, as always, to post your thoughts here.