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A US study of Fortune 500 companies has suggested that those with women CEOs or those with more women acting in senior positions such as board members are significantly more likely to be welcoming of LGBTI people in the workplace.

The 10 year study, published by SAGE in partnership with The Tavistock Institute, finds that diversity in the boardroom is key to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive policies.

It concluded that although the gender of a company’s CEO had an influence on its LGBT-friendly credentials, that influence was far more pronounced if there was diversity across the whole boardroom.

Evidence suggests that discrimination, homophobia and workplace hostility limit the employment prospects and career mobility of LGBT individuals. In order to recruit, hire and retain the most talented and skilled workers – irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity – firms have begun adopting and implementing policies aimed at building an inclusive workplace.

Such policies benefit not only LGBT individuals but companies themselves, including improved stock performance and higher rates of productivity and worker commitment. Yet while many companies have adopted these polices, many others have not.

In terms of measuring a company’s LGBT-inclusiveness, the author’s made use of Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index – a ranking of US corporations based on their policies regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender staff.

One of the report’s co-authors, Alison Cook, Associate Professor at Utah State University, said in a press statement:

“Our study is important because it shows that leadership diversity can significantly influence a company likelihood of adopting inclusive policies. Gender diversity in the boardroom is key; women directors increase a company’s commitment to equity and fairness and advance firms’ strategic goals. Companies committed to these outcomes can focus on increasing diversity among top leaders, including CEOs and board directors.”

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