The year began with a welcome dose of good news: West Monroe is among 1,142 major U.S. companies rated this year. In addition, the firm is one of 767 to receive a perfect score and designation as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” This is the third year we have participated in the Index and the first time we have been awarded a perfect score.
Receiving a perfect score is gratifying, but it’s not the sole reason we participate. Over nearly 20 years, the CEI has become the premier benchmark for measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality. It is an objective and comprehensive assessment of where we stand relative to the market’s expectations.
It also provides specific guidance around what we do well and where we need to improve. On the positive side, West Monroe has been a trailblazer of sorts in offering benefits for same sex partners and transitioning genders. On the other hand, we saw that we needed to bolster some aspects of our corporate social responsibility efforts, policies, and training.
Our biggest accomplishment over the past two years has been elevating our community impact. Despite the constraints of the pandemic, we have increased charitable, volunteerism, and pro bono work with LGBTQ organizations in our key markets.
For example, our relationship with Howard Brown Health – a Federally Qualified Health Center in Chicago – has evolved into a truly phenomenal partnership. During 2020, we partnered on Pride Month programming and education. Our people raised over $6,000 to support Howard Brown’s programs, and we helped the organization establish the Southside Safe Space for at-risk youth.
In Minneapolis, our partnership with Carlson School of Management Compass focuses on recruiting and building community and opportunity for LGBTQ+ students. In Seattle, our work with the GBSA, Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce, has included projects such as preparing “lavender letters” for college-aged people who may not have family support around the holidays.
But social responsibility is not just about the community support we provide – it’s also about being clear on what we won’t support. Historically, we have been a policy-light organization. That is reflective of our principle of empowering our employee owners. However, earlier CEI feedback found that some of our policies lacked the specificity considered best practice in promoting LGBTQ equality. As a result, we worked with firm leadership over several years to refine certain policy language – for example, updating our corporate giving policy to explicitly prohibit corporate support to organizations whose primary mission advocates against LGBTQ equality.
Initial feedback also highlighted a lack of training and education around bias and inclusion. So, we got involved as West Monroe introduced customized training around unconscious bias in the workplace. Following a successful pilot, this is now part of the firm’s core curriculum and mandatory for our directors.
Finally, we have made it a priority to influence workplace practices that reinforce inclusivity by considering the needs of all employees. For example, we worked with the firm to provide gender-neutral restrooms, as well as wellness rooms and prayer rooms, in the new offices that opened recently in Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. These spaces are strategically located away from areas of high activity, designed with an approach to enhance personal privacy, and constructed to minimize visual and acoustic distractions.
Getting to this point has truly been a team effort – well beyond WMPride. While we take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment, we also are not taking it for granted. Inclusion is a journey, and the destination is evolving. Therefore, we continue to take to heart the feedback – both from our people as well as independent sources such as the Human Rights Campaign. This year we plan to host a town hall on pronoun usage, celebrate Pride Month and National Coming Out Day, and continue our work with Howard Brown Health. We will also continue to work with firm leadership and other employee resource groups at West Monroe to make sure that our policies and practices encourage a workplace that feels inclusive for all.