What Spurs Orgnizations to have LGBT-Inclusive Polices?

Benjamin Everly and Joshua Schwarz recently published an article in the journal Human Resource Management, with a focus on factors associated with an organization's adoption of LGBT-inclusive policies.* We have conducted similar research looking at what factors are associated with sexual orientation diversity among athletic department employees.^ Everly and Schwarz's work expands this scholarship by considering the adoption of inclusive policies, and across industries. 

They collected data from a variety of archival data sources. These included the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which the authors used as a measure of LGBT-friendly policies; federal data bases, and the Wharton Research Data Services database, among others. They also statistically controlled for firm size and industry in most of their analyses, and in  doing so, were able to partial out the effects these variables might have on the presence of inclusive policies.

They analyzed the data over a number of years: 2002-2010. The results generally showed the following: 

  • Companies located in states with progressive laws, such as permitting same-sex marriage, were also more likely to have LGBT-inclusive policies. 
  • If other firms in a particularly industry offer inclusive policies, the laggards are likely to follow suit soon thereafter. 
  • The more women on the board of directors, the more likely to organization is to have LGBT-friendly policies. 
  • As firms had more federal contracts, they were more likely to have inclusive policies. This was particularly the case in early years of analyses: 2003 and 2004.  
  • Other factors, such as the average age of the board members, the average tenure of the board members, or the percent of LGBT employees in the industry, were not associated with LGBT-inclusive policies. 

The results show that there is not one factor likely to drive inclusive policies. Instead, societal influences (e.g., the presence of progressive state laws), industry factors (e.g., others adopting inclusive policies), and organizational factors (e.g., board of directors membership, acquisition of federal contracts) all shape a company's policies toward LGBT individuals.

In applying the findings to sport organizations, the results show that employees and advocates seeking inclusiveness should target various factors. They perhaps have most influence over organizational factors, such as the appointment of board members. However, they can also highlight how others in the sport industry have benefited from adopting an inclusive mindset, thereby creating pressures to mimic these effective practices.


* Everly, B. A., & Schwarz, J. L. (2015). P. Human Resource Development, 54, 367-384.

Cunningham, G. B. (2010). Predictors of sexual orientation diversity in intercollegiate athletics. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 3, 256-269.