Fortune 500 has reached consensus: homophobia is not good business.
The American Family Association (AFA) failed with a threatened boycott
to convince Ford Motor Company to pull its ads in gay publications.
Threats by AFA and similar organizations also fizzled with Disney,
Microsoft, Wells Fargo and Kraft, among others.
Wal-Mart, the largest of the Fortune 500 companies, includes sexual orientation
protection in its workplace policies and has retained Witeck-Combs, a marketing
consulting firm specializing in the gay community, to conduct staff seminars
on the LGBT market.
Five years ago, a minority of Fortune 500 companies provided sexual orientation
workplace protection. Currently, 461 (92.2 percent) of the Fortune 500
Companies protect gay employees. Vanguard recently decided to vote its
proxy for sexual orientation workplace protection. Vanguard and other institutional
stewards understand that diversity is in the best corporate and shareholder
The LGBT market is far larger than realized. Voters News Service and Zogby
International data reflect that between four percent to five percent of
the American voting population self-identifies as gay or lesbian. According
to studies, there are 15 million adult LGBT Americans.
American Family Association’s boycotts of
Motor Company, Disney, Microsoft, Wells Fargo
Kraft have repeatedly resulted in failure.
The 15 million adult LGBT Americans with a $610 billion annual buying power compares
with 9.3 million adult Asian Americans with a $344 billion annual buying power,
23.8 million adult African Americans with a $688 billion annual buying power
and 26.5 million adult Hispanic Americans with a $653 billion annual buying power.
Recently, more gay and lesbian couples are parenting. Even with this growing
trend, there is far less than one child per LGBT household. With fewer children
per household, the average adult LGBT American has more disposable income. This
is reflected in the hospitality industry recognizing LGBT Americans as a highly
desirable travel market.
These 15 million adult LGBT Americans with fewer children and higher disposable
income become an attractive consumer market for Ford. It is a compelling business
reason not to pull Land Rover, Jaguar and other Ford ads from gay publications.
Corporate America has become an instrument of social change. Social conservatives
not only find themselves up against core American values such as fairness, but
also core principles of free enterprise. Efficient capitalism requires bottom
Corporate America has become an ally of LGBT rights not only because so many
agree with equality, but because the result is consistent with profit maximization.
Capitalists have concluded that for the LGBT market, sagacious business follows
To view Equality Forum’s Fortune 500 Nondiscrimination Project, visit www.equalityforum.com/fortune500.
Malcolm Lazin is the executive director of Equality Forum, a national nonprofit
LGBT organization that undertakes high
impact initiatives, produces documentary films, highlights LGBT history and presents
the largest national and international annual LGBT civil rights forum.