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Big Business, Gay Rights, and Rainbow Cookies

This election season, there are few topics as controversial as gay marriage. President Obama has come out in support of marriage equality, and four states (Maine, Washington State, Minnesota, and Maryland) will put civil rights for gay couples on the ballot this November. It's no surprise Americans are talking about this hot topic, but now big business has joined in the conversation. 

In their recent story, “Big Business Increasingly Supports Gay Rights,” the Harvard Business Review examines the increased frequency of companies taking a stance on equality. JCPenney recently created controversy by selecting Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, and again with a Father's Day ad campaign featuring a gay couple and their children. Oreo made waves when the company's Facebook page shared a photo of a Pride cookie in honor of Gay Pride Month, resulting in over 20,000 comments and promises to boycott the brand. And Chick-fil-A came under fire when CEO Dan Cathy told a Christian news organization that his company supported “the biblical definition of the family unit.”  In fact, Dan Cathy is still making waves with his controversial views. 

The article highlights two main reasons a company would be wise to come out in support for LGBT rights:

Boost Employee Recruitment and Retention

With LGBT employees making up 5-10 percent of the labor force, those businesses that provide same-sex benefits for LGBT employees could be more likely to attract the top performers from that subset of the population. Additionally, an inclusive company culture could be more attractive to the friends and family of LGBT workers who, according to the article, make up 60 percent of the workforce. Finally, the article claims younger workers are more likely to choose an employer who has come out in support of equal rights. 

The Marketplace Demands It

With JCPenney's ultimately successful marketing risk, and the buzz Oreo created with its rainbow cookie, one thing has become clear: LGBT marketing is increasing. While HBR admits targeted marketing aimed in support of the gay community is risky, a smart campaign could see significant payoff. 

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you. Do you think politics and big business should mix? What are the potential consequences of a company coming out in support of gay rights? 

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Oreo pride
(Image credit: Oreo)

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