Also on the Clinton Foundation Agenda: Getting Business Behind LGBT Equality

Here’s a hopeful sight—a young, female leader quizzing bank and credit card company executives on their approaches to LGBT equality.

Let’s zoom in: Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, sits on a stage at the New York Sheraton, with Tim Murphy, general counsel and chief franchise officer for MasterCard, and Barbara Byrne, vice chairman of banking for Barclays, engaging them in dialogue about how their corporations are carrying out their LGBT-friendly policies, and how to get more corporations to do the same.

The setting for this display of young leadership and rapidly changing corporate culture is a plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Winter Meeting on February 4, which brought together over 450 leaders from diverse backgrounds in the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors, to discuss world problems with an eye toward making progress.

Both Barclays and MasterCard are part of a new global coalition called Open For Business, a CGI Commitment to Action led by the Brunswick Group, which is pushing to make LGBT inclusiveness the norm globally. While making the business case for inclusion, the coalition also seeks to “engage global influencers, train local advocates, and raise the profile” of LGBT inclusion efforts among policymakers.

The CGI Open for Business commitment has an estimated duration of two years. When implemented, the total value of the commitment is estimated at $1,452,000. But the significance of this effort goes well beyond money: It's about getting corporate leaders more strongly aligned against LGBT discrimination, both in the U.S. and abroad, by leveraging the Clinton Foundation's most powerful asset—its convening power. The thing to remember about this outfit is that networking, not grantmaking, is its signature strength. 

The bigger picture behind Open for Business, as we've reported, is that the LGBT rights movement has made ending discrimination the new centerpiece of its work in the wake of the successful fight for marriage equality. A wide array of discriminatory practices related to employment, housing, and other issues remain perfectly legal in many U.S. statesnot to mention a great many countries. In working to end such discrimination, LGBT philanthropists like Tim Gill see business as a critical ally. Meanwhile, many businesses have their own motives for moving on this issue as they work to attract top talent from the tolerant millennial generation.  

Related: No One Left Behind: Tim Gill and the New Quest for Full LGBT Equality

In September 2015 at the CGI Annual Meeting, the roster of organizations signing on to support Open for Business was long and impressive—a total of 15 corporations committed to this new coalition, including newer giants like Google, as well as old standards like AT&T and IBM.

After Davos in January 2016, Accenture, Barclays, Microsoft and Tesco joined the Open For Business coalition.

Mastercard supports LGBT inclusiveness through its Business Resource Group, PRIDE, which helps the company foster an environment where everyone can feel comfortable about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I think diversity is an important topic for our company. It’s essential to who we are and a core part of our culture,” said Tim Murphy, who has been General Counsel for Mastercard since 2014. “We think there is a very strong business case for diversity, and it obviously all revolves around people. It’s about making sure you have the right people at the table to make decisions in a very complex environment.”

Barbara Byrne, vice chairman of banking for Barclays, talked about how Barclays came early to the party on LGBT inclusion, starting in the early 2000s with its Spectrum Network. Barclays employs 8,000 people just two blocks from the conference venue in Midtown Manhattan, and Byrne said that 70 percent of those 8,000 employees are millennials.

“In 2010, we said, 'Shouldn’t we have coverage for partners?'” Byrne explained. Before Marriage Equality passed, Barclays offered a way for partners to be included for tax purposes called a “Gross-Up” on taxes, which eliminates the tax inequity faced by employees in same-sex domestic partnerships.

“The Street followed,” said Byrne. Other companies, including Facebook, Google, and Apple, began implementing “gross-ups” for same-sex couples in their workforces. Byrne made the point that leadership starts at the top, and that corporations can encourage each other to take on more LGBT-inclusive policies.  

“I think business has a platform that can lead government,” said Byrne. She pointed to the fact that many developing nations are seeking large employers, so businesses like Barclays can model the value of inclusiveness and pressure the governments to change laws that are hostile to LGBT relationships.

“The more LGBT is not ‘the other,’ but becomes me, my friend, my family, the more progress we will see,” said Murphy.

Byrne described how Barclays is the largest employer in Singapore, where homosexuality is illegal. “We have an LGBT Spectrum Network to do advocacy and ensure a safe work environment there,” said Byrne.

She also spoke to her experience in witnessing how LGBT inclusion improves employee performance and workplace culture. “I’ve seen time and time again, often the most compelling leadership comes from people who have been marginalized in one culture, and through a different opportunity, they are given access to another culture where they can flourish,” said Byrne.