Philly companies receive top scores in HRC’s equality index

Members of Lincoln Financial Group ERG in the Philadelphia Pride parade

More and more corporate companies have been stepping up their LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion resources, making for healthier, happier work environments for employees, clients and consumers. As part of its 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) scored dozens of Pennsylvania companies with strong LGBTQ-inclusive policies and employee resource groups. Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, are in-house groups that provide programming, networking events, training sessions and overall support systems for minority employees, including LGBTQ people.      

Philadelphia companies that received a score of 100 percent include Aramark Corp., Ballard Spahr LLC, Blank Rome LLP, Chubb Ltd., Comcast NBCUniversal, Cozen O’Connor, Dechert LLP, Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP, Duane Morris LLP, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, FMC Corp., Fox Rothschild LLP, Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoads LLP, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP, Pepper Hamilton LLP and Saul Ewing Arnstein and Lehr LLP. 

The highest number of companies in the 18 years the CEI has existed earned scores of 100 percent in this year’s survey, an increase of over 100 companies from last year. 

The law firm Blank Rome was founded by a group of attorneys who had trouble finding work due to their religious affiliation, explained Partner and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sophia Lee. 

“From our perspective, diversity and inclusion has been a foundation of our core values since our founding,” she said. “We wanted to create a place where people of diverse backgrounds can bring their whole selves to work. I like to say diversity and inclusion is in our DNA.” 

Blank Rome’s LGBTQ employee resource group, BR Pride, facilitates educational, networking and recruiting events throughout the year. During last year’s pride month, the group organized a panel with representatives from LGBTQ organizations including Whitman-Walker Health and The Trevor Project. BR Pride also serves to let LGBTQ-identified Blank Rome employees know of each other’s existence, said Brady Craig, intellectual property and technology associate and co-chair of BR Pride. 

“To be able to have your personal life not to be completely separate from your office life — that’s something very important to me, to be able to be open about who I am and talk about my partner,” he said.  

Blank Rome is also proudly a Mansfield-certified firm, in reference to Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule. The rule dictates that a firm should strive to have women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities comprise at least 50 percent of their candidate pool while considering leadership positions and outside counsel. Blank Rome was one of the pilot firms for the first version of the Mansfield Rule, Lee said. 

Though not in Philadelphia and in neighboring Delaware County, Lincoln Financial Group instituted its ERGs in 2011 — the LGBTQ group was among the first, said Brian Truelove, the company’s assistant vice president of diversity and inclusion. 

According to Truelove, one of the social media comments Lincoln received in response to its LGBTQ resources reads: “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see a company [moving] to make the lives of transgender people a little easier. It gives me great hope for my friends and family who tout themselves as part of the transgender community.”  

Lincoln also instituted an updated transgender inclusion policy, which is comprised of guidelines for transition, educational resources and gender-inclusive restrooms. 

“We’re trying to make sure that everyone feels part of the organization, and included and engaged,” Truelove said. “We have training for our managers so they can learn a little bit about what it takes to manage someone who’s transgender and understand all the language and the idea of pronouns.” 

Aramark’s ERG, PRIDE has been facilitating inclusivity, allyship and support of career development for the last seven years or so. The ERG has between 600 and 700 members nationwide as well as in Canada, according to Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jameel Rush. 

“One of the great things we’ve had from our ERG is going into and creating safe spaces for our employees to talk about their unique experiences,” Rush said.   

In addition to providing training sessions and facilitating diversity within their supply chain, the team at Aramark vies to take “real”  action to better the lives of its LGBTQ employees. Members of PRIDE came to the diversity and inclusion team in search of signatures on the amicus brief asking the federal legislature to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination laws.  

“That’s a signal to us to say, ‘This is really critical for us as a community and this is a way that you, Amarmark, can show that diversity isn’t something you preach about in theory, it’s something that you’re actually going to put your name and your power and the organization behind,’” Rush said. 

Another locally-headquartered law firm, Cozen O’Connor, bumped up its last CEI score from 75 to 100 by making its employee benefits information more readily accessible and clearly defining a benefit partner. 

The firm has two LGBTQ ERGs, one for attorneys, which focuses more on business development and one for staff members. 

Shakema Appleton, the firm’s diversity data analyst, said two ERGs help to “provide more education for employees not just throughout that group but throughout the firm as a whole.” She added, “[People] really came out and said ‘Hey, this is what we need to see within Cozen O’Connor.’”

In 2019, Appleton was named Philadelphia Business Journal’s Women of Distinction Rising Star for her work in diversity analytics and her initiatives in support of Cozen O’Connor’s LGBTQ employees. 

“We’ve seen a shift in the culture, as far as people coming forward and saying ‘What can I do to help,’” Appleton said. “Especially in the legal field, it can be a little tough. People are feeling comfortable coming forward, even myself. I’m an ally.”