Dec 08, 2011 • By

Inclusive workplace honored by HRC

Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation released its annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on specific policies and practices related to equality in the workplace.

General Mills received a perfect score on the list, earning the distinction of landing on the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

To achieve this perfect score, companies must “have fully inclusive equal employment opportunity policies, provide equal employment benefits, demonstrate organizational LGBT competency, evidence their commitment to equality publicly and exercise responsible citizenship,” according to the HRC.

General Mills has earned a 100 percent perfect rating for four of the past five years and six times overall since 2003.

To get a personal perspective of what this recognition represents for employees, I interviewed Elisha Huse, a senior financial analyst at General Mills and co-chair of “Betty’s Family,” the company’s LGBT employee network.

As a General Mills employee, what does the company’s achievement of a 100 percent score on the Corporate Equality Index mean to you?

Huse: We take pride in the awards and recognition we receive, as it illustrates our commitment to diversity and inclusion. To once again be recognized by HRC is motivation for us to persistently strive for change.

We are thankful that the HRC seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace. We value our partnership with the organization and will continue our support and efforts by creating a more inclusive, vibrant, innovative culture where LGBT employees want to work, stay and grow.

From your personal perspective, why does General Mills deserve this recognition?

Huse: To meet General Mills’ goals of making lives healthier, easier and richer every day, we need the total commitment of each person and the willingness to work together. We do that by valuing and promoting diversity, striving to create a more inclusive environment, building diverse teams, and above all, respecting every individual.

Our Betty’s Family network’s engagement with leaders across all levels of the organization allows us to make sure we have an open dialogue and address the concerns of LGBT employees. We have a culture at General Mills that feels inclusive to all employees, and this recognition complements our position to be better able to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

Have you witnessed General Mills’ inclusive business practices evolve over the years?

Huse: Yes, I feel that we are continuously improving and learning each step of the way. The diversity landscape is changing so rapidly, but we have the right foundation in place, which helps us remain flexible and proactively lead change.

Our foundation is based on our core values, which include respecting, developing and investing in our people. We strive to be among the best in workforce diversity best practices to drive better business outcomes.

Just recently, we expanded eligibility for our 401k savings plan hardship withdrawals to include domestic partners. And we now also cover gender reassignment services and ongoing health care services. On our corporate climate survey, we have also included an optional demographic question that allows employees the opportunity to self-identify as LGBT. As we continue to uncover areas of opportunity, we all work together to drive positive changes.

Tell me about Betty’s Family.

Huse: In the mid-1990s, we created our LGBT network, Betty’s Family, named after one of General Mills’ key icons – Betty Crocker.

Our network’s mission is to create a safe, open and productive environment for General Mills’ LGBT employees and allies. Betty’s Family welcomes all employees interested in LGBT issues and in supporting the network’s mission. Allies are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBT movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect. The network’s steering committee consists of dedicated employees taking on roles above and beyond their ‘day jobs.’ The network also has the support of an advisory board comprised of six executive-level sponsors. Betty’s Family plays an important role in providing a sense of family within General Mills and in the surrounding community.

The network contributes in an important way to the achievement of key strategies and in fulfilling the company’s mission of Nourishing Lives. Whether it is serving consumers with top-quality products or reaching out to improve our communities, we live our mission each and every day.

Editor’s note: General Mills is also featured in a story on the Corporate Equality Index filed by the Associated Press today.