Liberal activist groups that rate corporations according to woke metrics exert pressure on them to meet diversity targets, expand supplier diversity requirements, and make donations to their preferred causes. In this era of ever-expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, I’ve noticed a little-reported trend: “gayffirmative action,” a term I’ll borrow from a 2015 Washington University Law Review article. Members of the LGBT-community are now often eligible for the same sort of hiring, promotion, supplier diversity, and other preferences once available only to women, nonwhites, the disabled, and veterans.
The trend is visible on the HR pages of corporations and governmental institutions, at increasingly well-attended LGBT job fairs and summits, and in job listings on mainstream and gay job websites. The Mayo Clinic, for example, “strongly encourages” job applications from gay housekeeping assistants, gay orthopedic hand surgeons, gay transplant pulmonologists, and gay door attendants, among many other jobs seemingly unrelated to sexual orientation. Overtly liberal employers—the ACLU, for example—are more specific in encouraging or discouraging various tribes in their ads. A recent ad for a receptionist job appealed to “Black people, Indigenous people, people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people; women; people with disabilities, protected veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals”—all “strongly encouraged to apply.” The March for Our Lives includes most of the usual groups (except veterans) in its job-vacancy statement but also throws “young people” into the mix. So grumpy old straight white men need not apply, apparently.
The influential Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest LGBT rights lobbying group, describes the community it serves as a “protected class” in its most recent corporate equality index (CEI)—and the group deserves much credit for making it so. HRC’s 2022 report stresses the need for “diverse talent acquisition” and claims that a record-breaking 842 companies jumped through all the required hoops, including providing benefits for transgender reassignment procedures, to obtain a perfect 100 percent rating in the CEI.
Nearly half of all CEI-rated businesses attended an LGBT-specific recruiting event or industry function, including the industry’s preeminent one: the 2022 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, a three-day affair that included 5,300 delegates from 48 countries. The event included leadership workshops on the “Benefits of Transgender Inclusion Training at the National Security Agency,” the hardships of being asexual or aromantic in the workplace, Brazilian lesbians in tech, parenting while bisexual, leadership lessons from drag performers, and trans and nonbinary storytelling, among other topics.
One could chalk up all of the above as belonging to the category of “outreach.” Employers have an understandable interest in broadening their applicant pools to ensure that they hire the best person for the job. But in an era when employers are under increasing pressure to meet diversity targets, it’s also quite convenient for them to expand the definition of what can be considered a diversity hire to include new groups, such as LGBTs.
Many corporations now also list their vacancies on gay job-search websites, such as Pink Jobs, LGBT Connect, Out & Equal, and others. In a bid to woo gay talent, many multinational corporations have targeted recruitment websites with LGBT-themed content. Accenture, for example, has an LGBT landing page that links to in-house-produced articles like “how to be an ally to transgender people every day,” a piece about bisexual employees that addresses the “stigma that bisexuality is ‘not a real thing,’” and a similar piece about nonbinary employees and their “allies.” Again, all of this is consistent with an interest in broadening applicant pools.
What about practices that go beyond mere outreach? HRC reports, for example, that one of the most common forms of corporate LGBT inclusion involves tracking “LGBTQ+ metrics through self-identification programs.” Almost half of CEI-rated employers (620 of 1,271 respondents) include LGBT diversity metrics as part of senior management/executive leadership performance standards. The report also notes the growing prevalence of LGBT supplier-diversity programs and documents that 90 percent of CEI-rated companies consider LGBT-owned businesses part of such preference schemes. Walmart, for example, boasts that in FY 2022, it purchased more than $13 billion in goods from “diverse suppliers,” including LGBT-owned businesses.
At the 2022 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Bristol Myers Squibb hosted a workshop highlighting its $1 billion commitment to purchase from “diverse-owned businesses” and to promote “health equity and intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community, while fostering inclusive innovation and a supply chain that reflects our values, patients we serve, and our world.” Goldman Sachs advertises an “LGBTQ+ student possibility program” that is “designed to equip LGBTQ+ students for a summer internship,” which often leads to full-time work.
Some colleges and universities have also apparently been recruiting LGBT students and tracking the LGBT metrics of their students. The Yale Daily News reported in 2011 that the Yale School of Medicine was intentionally recruiting gay applicants and had produced an LGBT-specific admissions brochure, along with other recruiting materials. And in what a 2006 Inside Higher Ed article dubbed an “admissions trend,” an admissions director at Middlebury College acknowledged that the college gives students who identify as gay an “attribute”—the same flagging of an application that members of ethnic minority groups, athletes, alumni children, and others receive.
While it’s unclear how many schools provide preferences for LGBT students, dozens of colleges, including prominent ones like MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Iowa, Maryland, Delaware, and California, provide students the option to self-identify as gay on application forms. Many students now believe it is advantageous to mention that they are gay in their application essays. For example, a gay student on the college-admissions advice website Collegevine didn’t ask if she would receive a boost in the admission process for elite schools but rather “how much of a boost” she would receive.
Just as high school students in countless Reddit threads debate whether they should out themselves in their college application essays, job applicants ponder whether to do so to score diversity points in their cover letters. But despite all the talk, there’s been surprisingly little debate or research into gayffirmative action. A 2015 College of William and Mary research paper concluded that, while gays could be included in affirmative-action programs based on the “compelling interest” in diversity argument, there was not “sufficient justification for such an expansion.” A 2018 National Black Law Journal research paper, on the other hand, called for colleges and universities to “incorporate LGBTQ students into their affirmative action admissions programs.” But the 2015 Washington University Law Review article examining the constitutionality of “gayffirmative action” programs concluded that an “aggrieved heterosexual” could legitimately challenge such programs on equal-protection grounds.
At the end of October, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education in the Students for Fair Admissions cases. Meantime, other than Florida governor Ron DeSantis, few prominent Republicans speak out against affirmative action, though a Pew Research poll from earlier this year showed that 74 percent of Americans think that race shouldn’t be a factor in college admissions and 82 percent think that gender shouldn’t be a factor. Most Americans, myself included, want gay people to have equal protection under the law, and we don’t want them to suffer discrimination of any kind. But that’s about it.
Gallup reports that, amid all the real or perceived benefits of becoming a member of this recently protected group, LGBT identification now stands at just over 7 percent, double what it was ten years ago, while 20.8 percent of Generation Z and 10.5 percent of Millennials identify as LGBT. According to Pew Research, just 52 percent of Generation Z is white. If you take out women, veterans, the disabled, and LGBT, just 15 percent to 20 percent of this most privileged generation do not belong to one or more protected tribes.
In Florida, where I live, DeSantis signed the Stop Woke Act this summer, which makes it illegal for anyone to be “discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.” It’s a great start, but it will likely be hard to enforce the law, regardless of how the courts rule. Woke corporations want brownie points with groups like the HRC and others that rank them. But while LGBTs may be the newest members of America’s official victim class, they likely won’t be the last. As the preference-club list continues to expand, perhaps it would be easier if employers simply told us which groups they’re not trying to encourage.
Photo: Amy Campos Rodriguez/iStock