At its 2019 U.S. Summit this week, Out Leadership launched the LGBT+ Business Climate Index that rates each U.S. state, a new system for assessing states’ performance on LGBT+ inclusion. Virginia ranked 23rd in the nation.
The Index incorporates and goes beyond analysis of legal frameworks to measure the impact government policies and prevalent attitudes have on the LGBT+ people residing in each state, quantifying the economic imperatives for inclusion and the costs of discrimination.
“The world’s smartest businesses evaluate markets and economies in terms of human capital,” said Todd Sears, Founder and Principal, Out Leadership. “We’ve conceived of the LGBT+ Business Climate Index as a lens to help stakeholders properly weigh the economic impact of policies that are often thought of as primarily social or cultural – to see how harmful discrimination is to businesses and to talent, and how beneficial inclusive policies can be.”
“Creating cultures where LGBT+ people are safe, supported, and able to rise to their highest potential is powerfully transformative,” Sears continued. “We’re grateful to Out Leadership’s 68 member companies for partnering with us every day in service of that vision.”
Societal marginalization of LGBT+ people – which can often be subtle and hard to measure – has real and serious economic costs. Major legislative efforts to extend further legal discrimination, such the Religious Freedom Restoration (RFRA) law Mike Pence signed in Indiana in 2016, and North Carolina’s passage of the HB2 “Bathroom Bill,” damaged those states’ reputations for being business-friendly and harmed tourism, resulting in significant economic losses.
“Discrimination doesn’t need to be headline news to be harmful, or to create real economic hardship for LGBT+ people,” said Rachel Lynn Golden, PhD, Senior Researcher, Out Leadership, who developed the Index.
“That’s why this system combines verifiable data on LGBT+ people’s lived experiences with economic data, to help business leaders and policymakers understand the costs created by policies that create minority stress.”
In this index, Virginia earned a score of 60.73 (out of a possible 100) and a rank of 23rd in the nation, below Wisconsin and above Iowa. Massachusetts leads the rankings with a score of 90, closely followed by California that earned a score of 89.67.
How the Index Works
Out Leadership’s State LGBT+ Business Climate Index gives each state a score out of 100 points, based on 20 carefully selected and nuanced markers assessing LGBT+ people’s lived experiences. It groups these markers into 5 broader categories. Generally, the markers assess:
Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections
- How difficult is it to change a gender marker on a birth certificate?
- How difficult is it to change a gender marker on a driver’s license?
- Does the state have any employment nondiscrimination policies for LGBT+ people?
- Do any other nondiscrimination policies in the state apply to LGBT+ people?
Youth and Family Support
- How supportive is the state of LGBT+ people who are in or want to start families?
- What resources are available to LGBT+ children and youth in the state?
- Is conversion therapy banned for minors?
- Can educators discuss LGBT+ issues and identities in schools?
Political & Religious Attitudes
- Has the governor recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
- Has the junior Senator recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
- Has the senior Senator recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?
- To what extent does the state allow for religious exemptions from its laws?
Health Access and Safety
- Do LGBT+ people, particularly the most vulnerable and economically precarious, have access to health care and insurance?
- Do state employees receive transgender inclusive health benefits?
- Are LGBT+ people protected by any hate crimes laws in the state?
- Is exposure of others to and transmission of HIV criminalized?
Work Environment and Employment
- At what rate are transgender people subjected to harassment at work?
- What percentage of LGBT+ people are unemployed, and how does it compare to the unemployment rate of non-LGBT+ people in the state?
- What percentage of LGBT+ people experience food insecurity, and how does it compare to the unemployment rate of non-LGBT+ people in the state?
- What percentage of LGBT+ people have annual income below $24,000 (approximately the federal poverty line)?
“Research demonstrates that companies where LGBT+ people are supported enjoy increased profitability and stock prices as well as increased employee productivity,” said Dave Hughes, Managing Director and Head of Communications, Out Leadership. “Our index suggests that a similar relationship exists on a state policy level, and that states that aim to make LGBT+ people better included legally and culturally will experience significant rewards for doing so.”
“This Index provides both a comparative and a categorical assessment of states’ performance on LGBT+ inclusion,” Hughes concluded. “We hope it will equip business leaders and policymakers with a clear sense of the most impactful steps states can take to make themselves more hospitable to forward-thinking, innovative, inclusive businesses, and help drive equality forward.”
The Index was funded by the Gill Foundation, as part of its support of Out Leadership’s CEO Business Briefs for the 50 U.S. States; it is based on data generously provided by Out Leadership’s partners at the Williams Institute, the United States Transgender Survey, and the Movement Advancement Project.
You may download the full report here.