The brave move made by PayPal to cancel expansion plans in light of North Carolina's anti-transgender laws should be applauded. The law, which means the transgender community have to go the bathroom of their birth gender, follows equally misguided and regressive laws giving Mississippi businesses the power to not serve gay couples. In fact, according to the Human Rights Campaign, there have been 200 anti-LGBT+ bills introduced in the US so far this year.
With great power comes great responsibility and PayPal's stance is a fantastic example of this truth in action. It could set a standard around the world and pave the way for societal change.
As well as being the right thing to do, I'm confident it will also be good for business. The reality is that brands that support diversity are seen as more progressive. Companies in the USA are taking the diversity agenda seriously not only for the sake of their employees but are also in order to stay in step with consumer opinions - particularly younger consumers with more liberal social attitudes. 47% of consumers under the age of 24 are more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality themed ad.
This has the potential to move on the LGBT+ professional equality agenda from solely one of being an 'employer of choice' to one where companies also have the opportunity to position themselves as a 'brand of choice' through the lens of inclusion.
We know from our own research that not enough businesses share PayPal's philosophy. We recently examined the annual reports of those at the top, the FTSE 100 members, for mention of LGBT diversity. The results were illuminating. Our review revealed that while 99% of the annual reports refer to diversity as a whole, 80% of these lacked any mention of non-discrimination policies for transgender employees. Given that transgendered people are one of the most discriminated against groups in society, this seems to be a glaring omission.
At OUTstanding, the professional LGBT+ and Ally network I run alongside diversity focused Executive Search firm Audeliss, our mission is to show businesses that integrating diverse thinking into a companies' DNA and aligning it with the bottom line is a no brainer. It connects leaders with employees, LGBT+ individuals with allies and businesses with society. This change needs to be driven by the kind of demonstrably inclusive leadership on show yesterday.
If other executives - allies and LGBT+ alike - understand the potential for positive change, the opportunity is huge. There is a clear role for OUTstanding to help support progressive leaders both in the US and UK who understand the need to engage responsibly with a rapidly changing word and bring them together to discuss the economic and social purpose of business.
Our hugely successful annual lists of LGBT+ and ally executives in the Financial Times have shown the quality of leaders we have in the UK and beyond. Visible, senior role models are vital in order to encourage other leaders to be better. I really hope that Dan Schulman's bold move is acknowledged by a nomination for the first time this year.
We are on the cusp of major change. Strong leadership has the power to join up conversations around LGBT+ diversity and inclusion, talent management, marketing and brands as well as trust and reputation. And by integrating the diversity agenda into a business' core, it becomes a powerful force in business and society for good.