The National LGBT Bar Association this Thursday presented the legal department of GlaxoSmithKline with its Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award, which is given annually to several corporations throughout the country for their efforts to advance LGBT equality.
Members of the legal department’s Global Diversity and Inclusion team have been regular participants in the association’s Lavender Law Conference, serving as panelists for the last two years.
Ted Furman, vice president of Consumer, Stiefel, Ophthalmology Global Patents at GSK, said the legal department authorized him to become the executive sponsor of the company’s local LGBT employee resource group, Spectrum.
Spectrum has supported the work of agencies like William Way LGBT Community Center and Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance and launched a Safe Zone LGBT training program, which is being rolled out at GSK locations throughout the nation.
Last year, Spectrum put together an “It Gets Better” video, which Furman said was well received within the GSK community.
“People have been extremely proud of this,” Furman said. “Probably half of the people in the video are straight allies, and it was heartwarming to see so many people participate. GSK really takes inclusion and diversity very seriously, and people are proud of that.”
Furman has worked closely with the company’s benefits committee to ensure GSK is at the forefront of enhanced rights and benefits for LGBT employees. The company has received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for the past seven years.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, National LGBT Bar Association executive director, said Furman has been integral in bringing messages of LGBT inclusion back to his employer.
“He came to one of our receptions in New York a few years back just because he wanted to find out more about what we do, which was really refreshing and exciting,” she said. “At Lavender Law that year, he sat in the front row and was furiously taking notes. It may have been uncomfortable for him to be a straight ally, but he held out a hand to us and said he wanted to help make changes, and then the company really followed through on that. That’s why it was so easy for us to select GSK for the award.”
Furman said the award is a welcome commendation.
“Speaking on behalf of General Counsel Dan Troy and the whole department, we’re very honored to be recognized by an organization like the National LGBT Bar Association,” he said. “They, along with HRC, are setting the pace and leading the way. We have been educated by them through their workshops and events, so it’s satisfying for them to turn around and note our accomplishments.”
While the award is meant to recognize GSK’s achievements, Kemnitz said she’s hopeful it will also inspire other organizations to follow their lead.
“They should be recognized for working for change and for showing that, even though change is hard in a big business, it can be done. We want this to motivate other companies to say, ‘If GSK is doing it, we should do it too.’”
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.