The Value of an Inclusive and Diverse Workforce for Business Performance

Stephanie Huckel

As a Human Resources professional, it’s my goal to help the organization find, include, and keep the best talent for the success of the organization. As a Diversity & Inclusion practitioner, specifically, I know that diversity is an imperative for two key reasons. First, developing product and program offerings that reflect our customers’ needs relies on our reflecting who our customers are. Second, diversity is about innovation and performance. Organizations that are more diverse outperform those who aren’t. (You don’t have to believe me; check out these articles by McKinsey & Company, Forbes, and Center for American Progress.)

The best talent, of course, includes LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) employees. In 30 states across the country, though, LGBTQ employees can be fired for their identity, and many companies take advantage of this legal right (in my experience, most LGBTQ folks can name a friend or acquaintance who has lost a job because of their identity). In some ways, LGBTQ employees are finding less support than they did just two years ago. In summer 2017, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer view LGBTQ Americans to be protected by federal non-discrimination statues that the previous administration used to protect LGBTQ Americans.

We cannot, of course, forget the human element of all of this: LGBTQ people are, quite simply, people. Like all of our employees, LGBTQ people deserve respect and inclusion, including at work. Sadly, this is not the current state of affairs. (Check out this fact sheet from Out & Equal.)

It is for all of these reasons and more that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is vocally supportive of our employees, members, and local community. For the past four years, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has recognized us for being one of the Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality. Like the other recipients of this award, we have inclusive non-discrimination policies, equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families, internal education and accountability metrics to promote LGBTQ inclusion, and public commitment to LGBTQ equality.

Because we’re a health insurance company, we have the opportunity to go beyond and have an even greater impact on our community. For the people who carry a BCBSRI membership card, how we administer our benefits is a very big deal; it’s the difference between having a procedure or medication covered and having to pay for it out of pocket. Over the past few years, we’ve done a little housekeeping in this regard. We’ve ensured that every body (yes, that’s every *body*) can receive the care it needs, without regard to the gender of the person it’s attached to, by removing gender-related claims edits. So now, if needed, a woman can get a prostate screening and a man can get a cervical exam. We’ve also developed a best-in-class medical policy for gender confirming surgery, so that folks who need this affirming surgery can receive it.

Some of our work, though, impacts the community even when those folks aren’t our members. The LGBTQ Safe Zone certification program was designed to close the gap between LGBTQ folks without identity-affirming healthcare providers and the providers who are. (Lambda Legal has well documented the gap in care for this community.) Since launching, we’ve certified over a dozen practices in Rhode Island to help ensure that LGBTQ people can find the care they need.

LGBTQ people deserve to feel as valued and respected as their heterosexual counterparts do. Your success, whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ community or not, depends on the inclusion of LGBTQ people. So, if your employer isn’t on the Best Places to Work list by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, you might want to start asking why…and pushing to make it a more inclusive place to work.

Stephanie Huckel is the Manager of Organizational Culture and Diversity & Inclusion at BCBSRI.

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