A Victory for LGBTQ Rights –
and a Reminder of the Road Ahead
by Amy D. Augustine, Director of ESG Investing
June 30, 2020
Relieved. Rewarded. Resolute.
These are just a few of the feelings washing over me as I try to keep pace with the flurry of breaking news alerts, texts from friends and family, and emails from colleagues and coalition partners—all to cheer the landmark Supreme Court ruling that affirmed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The June 15th ruling provides basic workplace protections for the 11 million LGBTQ Americans6https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lgbt/some-4-5-percent-of-u-s-adults-identify-as-lgbt-study-idUSKCN1QM2L6 who, just a day before, could have been fired or denied a job simply because of who they are or whom they love.
…for myself and for all LGBTQ employees who now have federal recourse when faced with workplace discrimination.
I began my career living in a state where I could have been denied a job or fired for being gay and working for a company that didn’t have an equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy that protected me from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While I was fortunate enough to transition to work in states and for organizations where these protections existed, not all LGBTQ employees are so lucky. As the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has documented, not being able to be your authentic self at work has consequences, not only for the employee, but also the employer7https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-workplace-divided-understanding-the-climate-for-lgbtq-workers-nationwide:
Nearly 1 in 2 LGBTQ employees say they are closeted at work
1 in 5 have stayed home from work because the workplace was not accepting
1 in 10 left a job because of an unwelcoming environment
Until the Supreme Court’s watershed ruling, LGBTQ workers faced a patchwork of state regulations, inconsistent interpretations of existing regulations, and companies with varying policies. Finally, our basic civil rights, at least in the workplace, are protected under federal law.
…for the decades of tireless advocacy we have engaged in to ensure a fair and equitable workplace for all people.
From those on the frontlines risking their safety and livelihoods to those in the boardrooms and courtrooms changing policies and practices from within – systemic change requires all of us to act from our sphere of influence. On a personal level, this has meant using my voice, my vote, and my dollar. On a professional level, it has meant working for organizations committed to advancing social and environmental justice.
Working at Boston Trust Walden enables me to pursue these aims on behalf of like-minded clients. As a leader in impact investing, Boston Trust Walden has successfully engaged, since the early 1990s, over 200 companies to advance LGBTQ equality in the workplace. We were one of the first investment firms to ask companies to include sexual orientation in non‐discrimination policies. In partnership with investors and advocates, including Horizons Foundation, Pride Foundation, Tides Foundation, and the Human Rights Campaign, we have witnessed tremendous progress since those early days. In 2014, Boston Trust Walden achieved its goal of 100% of Large Cap Impact strategy holdings having EEO policies inclusive of sexual orientation. We continued to press companies to amend their EEO policies to be inclusive of gender identity and expression. Today, 91% of companies in the Fortune 500 include sexual orientation in their EEO policies, and 83% include gender identity.8https://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-equality-at-the-fortune-500 It is rewarding to look back at how our collective efforts have led to transformative change.
…for the work still ahead. While the Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for LGBTQ rights in the workplace, we cannot rest until full equality is realized for all.
As Aimee Stephens, one of the plaintiffs whose lawsuit led to this landmark ruling, so eloquently stated in an open letter to Corporate America written shortly before her death: “Meaningful social change does not instantly come to be by the stroke of a judge’s pen.”9https://outandequal.org/aimee-stephens-letter-to-employers/ The Supreme Court’s decision on Title VII is an important step, but as evidenced by findings that 45% of LGBTQ workers agree enforcement of their company’s non-discrimination policy is dependent on their supervisor’s own feelings towards LGBTQ people10https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/AWorkplaceDivided-2018.pdf?_ga=2.42682981.1165719052.1592840453-1660981339.1589208790, an EEO policy is not enough. Companies must take affirmative steps to create inclusive environments where LGBTQ employees can thrive, rather than merely survive.
My colleagues and I are determined, on behalf of our clients and partners, to continue to use our influence and access as investors to advance equality–through shareholder engagement and public policy advocacy, both independently and collaboratively. While we cannot do everything, we can and will do something to usher in a world where people are not judged by the color of their skin, their gender, or who they love. The landscape ahead of us is vast, but we can take heart in—and get energized by—the milestones we achieve along the way.
Boston Trust Walden defines impact investing as an investment approach that seeks to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Other relevant industry terms include: environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, mission-related investing, responsible investing, socially responsible investing (SRI), sustainable investing, and values-based investing.
The information presented should not be considered as an offer, investment advice, or a recommendation to buy or sell any particular security. The information presented has been prepared from sources and data we believe to be reliable, but we make no guarantee to its adequacy, accuracy, timeliness or completeness. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice or obligation to update.
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