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The Corporate Equality Index & Communicating DEI

Posted by Spitfire Communications on Nov 16, 2022 10:15:00 AM
The Corporate Equality Index & Communicating DEI

The Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is a national rating system on corporate policies, practices and benefits as they pertain to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees in the workplace. The CEI is organized and implemented through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and this year marks its 20th anniversary. 

The CEI is a highly respected tool for weighing organizations on their ability to uphold a diverse and accommodating workplace, and the Annual Corporate Equality Index Report uses it to determine the most inclusive places to work in the U.S. 

Any company who’s committed to prioritizing DEI is likely to strive toward a spot on the CEI list. Keep reading to learn exactly what the Corporate Equality Index is, why it’s vital to maintaining an inclusive company culture and a few key CEI criteria updates in 2023. 


What is the Corporate Equality Index?

The Corporate Equality Index is the “premier survey benchmarking tool on how corporations across the United States and beyond are adopting equitable workplace policies, practices and benefits for LGBTQ+ employees,” according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s CEI website

Since its official launch in 2002, the CEI has been used by equity-conscious consumers, job candidates and investors around the world to determine whether the culture and policies of a particular company are worthy of their time, talent or treasure. 

The CEI formally rates how these private businesses treat their LGBTQ+ employees based on three key criteria:

1. Workforce Protections:

Ranging from nondiscrimination policies to equal opportunity for all employees, whistleblower protections and more. 


2. Inclusive Benefits:

Such as transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, equal compensation, domestic partner benefits, gender-affirming benefits and leave for all parents. 

3. Supporting an Inclusive Culture & Corporate Social Responsibility:

Demonstrating at least three types of organizational competency programming for employees, such as sexual orientation training. 

In 2022, 842 businesses met all the criteria required to earn a 100 percent rating and the designation of being a 2022 “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.”


The Importance of Workplace Inclusion 

In the U.S., the CEI is a premier benchmarking tool for ensuring Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is deeply rooted in the culture of the companies who meet the criteria and make the list. And, in order for DEI to be effective, it must be fully embedded in the culture of the organization from all the way up at the top to all the way down at the bottom. 

When DEI initiatives come from the top down, they become a fundamental priority for the business. The onus is on the leaders to uphold DEI as a strategic priority, build in accountability across the organization, and communicate goals clearly and frequently to employees. 

The positive impact of a diverse and inclusive workplace cannot be understated:

  • Diverse and inclusive corporations are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors 
  • Diverse organizations are 70% more likely to capture new markets 
  • Diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions 
  • Diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue

While it’s obvious that diverse organizations outperform their less-diverse competitors in revenue, profits and employee satisfaction, DEI isn't sustainable without a culture that includes and respects all individuals for who they are and encourages everyone to win at work. 

The Corporate Equality Index is an unparalleled tool for tracking how deeply embedded DEI is into an organization’s culture from both the top down and the bottom up.  


How to Participate in the Corporate Equality Index 

Who is eligible to participate in the CEI?

Any private sector, for-profit employer with 500+ full-time U.S. employees (that is not owned by a larger U.S.-incorporated entity) can request to participate in the CEI. 

How can my business get rated by the CEI?

If your business is eligible, an authorized representative can e-mail to participate in the CEI. The Human Rights Organization will ensure that person receives an invitation to participate in the survey on behalf of your organization, either in the current or approaching year.


2023 Corporate Equality Index Updates

The 2023 Corporate Equality Index will feature a series of criteria updates and new areas of impact — including extra points for transgender inclusive healthcare benefits, transgender inclusion best practices and a LGBTQ+ benefits guide. 

The changes will be scored during the next survey cycle, which will launch in Spring of 2023. In the meantime, the CEI team will be creating an array of resources to educate employers in the changes, including a webinar series, a Look Forward series, educational videos, an updated CEI Criteria Resource Guide, and more. 


How to Effectively Communicate DEI

Policies, benefits and other initiatives that strive to include LGBTQ+ workers are essential for businesses as they compete for talent and customers, but simply having a DEI program is not enough to embed inclusion into the heart of your organization's culture.

The key to ensuring your company’s DEI program is successful is to make DEI a core part of your strategic employee communications

We’ve compiled a few tips here on how to effectively communicate DEI in the workplace, so your priorities become clear and your initiatives become actionable: 

Communicate Why DEI Matters

Consistently deliver the message that diversity fosters better ideas and fresher perspectives, which leads to a more innovative and creative workplace for all. 

When a company is made up of a diverse array of employees, it can relate to (and becomes more relatable to) a larger external audience, as well. It’s important to communicate that DEI is a win for the entire organization and tie it to the overall mission, vision and values

Reinforce Inclusive Messaging

If there’s anything worse than not communicating DEI, it’s poorly communicating DEI. The wrong messages can backfire, so reinforcing the right messages is key. Inclusive language avoids terms that exclude particular groups of people, and it’s crucial to execute this delivery correctly. Veer away from idioms, acronyms and jargon that can be misconstrued by audiences from different cultures or backgrounds. Walk the fine line when it comes to being too “familiar” with your language. 

Create Space for Diverse Conversations

Let your organization lead by example when it comes to DEI. Walk the talk by building a conversation around what exactly diversity and inclusion look like at your organization. Evaluate factors like the diversity of your management team and whether human resources practices take into account a diverse workforce. The CEI is a great tool for discovering whether you do, in fact, walk the talk. 

Actively Listen 

Any effective communication strategy is rooted in two-way communication. Equally as important as delivering the messaging around DEI is listening to employee and stakeholder feedback and adjusting as you learn. Some individuals from underrepresented groups may feel hesitant to approach managers or leaders, so it’s vital to create an open, transparent and welcoming communication channel by listening to their ideas, questions, concerns etc. 

Hold All Employees Accountable

Communicating the case for DEI is key but holding everyone accountable is the only way to embed DEI into the culture of the organization. While communicating the case for diversity can help an organization develop shared values, creating a truly inclusive environment requires all employees to understand their role in facilitating DEI. Offering mentorship opportunities to managers, mandatory diversity and inclusion training as well as providing opportunities for diverse employees to drive high-level projects and decisions are all actionable ways to hold employees accountable at every level. 


Let Spitfire Drive Your DEI Communications 

With deep respect for today’s increasingly diverse workforce, promoting diversity and inclusion creates a positive work environment for employees and ultimately positions your organization for shared success.  

To learn about how Spitfire helps our clients incorporate diversity and inclusion into their messaging, read more about what we do or see some of our case studies here and here


Tags: Employee Communications, HR Communications, Employee Engagement, Open Enrollment, Human Resources, internal communications, communication strategy, Employee Marketing, culture, 2022, inclusivity, diversity

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