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Human Rights Campaign Announces LGBT-Friendly Prudential as Next Gala Honoree


A company sees a decade of diversity initiatives recognized on a major stage.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL On Tuesday night, the Human Rights Campaign, the country's biggest LGBT rights organization, held a gala in New York to announce its newest corporate equality honoree: Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU).

The HRC, a powerful LGBT (short for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered) lobbying organization since the mid-1980s, has been a major player in the corporate world since 2002, when it established the Corporate Equality Index. The CEI, as it's known, is a comprehensive catalog of companies' policies towards LGBT employees, including equivalent benefits for spouses and domestic partners, business and personal resource groups for LGBT workers, and the inclusion of anti-discrimination language specific to sexual orientation and gender identity in the corporation's employment policy.

A perfect rating of 100 from the CEI has become a highly sought-after feather in a company's cap, and in the 2012 index, 190 companies managed to achieve that perfect score by implementing or continuing progressive policies like including gender-reassignment surgery in health-care plans and creating specific hiring and marketing plans targeted at the LGBT community.

On the other end of the spectrum, Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Verizon (NASDAQ:VZ) both earned major blots on their LGBT rights record this year, with each company losing 25 points for high-profile controversies involving the LGBT community; both companies have repeatedly and publicly resisted efforts to add clauses to their equal-opportunity hiring documents that explicitly prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender applicants and employees.

Tuesday's gala was all about celebrating the positives, though, and Prudential's diversity officers were thoroughly pleased to hear the HRC would honor the company later this winter. "We've taken a strong stance on corporate equality, and that includes our LGBT employees," said chief diversity officer Michele Meyer-Shipp in her remarks to the audience. Meyer-Shipp added that the company was also compiling a survey of LGBT customers about their financial experience so as to better understand and serve those customers' needs.

However, Prudential's director of global communications Josh Stoffregen refused to bite when asked about the potential revenue from having a reputation as a gay-friendly company while the LGBT middle class is growing: "We're doing it because it's the right thing to do," he said with a smile.

Meyer-Shipp was less coy: "Obviously," she said, "this makes it more visible what good work we're doing. But also, we know that LGBT employees will see this and know that we're a good place to work." Prudential has received a score of 100 on the CEI for the last nine years.

The HRC was also thrilled with the proceedings; Jo Doyle, an HRC gala co-chair, told me that fundraising for additional such events is ahead of schedule. "The HRC is now in over 130 communities, as well," Doyle said, "which allows us to reach more and more people."

Prudential will receive the honor at the HRC's Greater New York Gala 2013 in February.

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