Wells Fargo Banks on Gay Friendly Policies
Wells Fargo was a pioneer in bringing banking to the Wild West. It is best known for its coaches that served as a postage service to far-flung territories -- something any show queen knows from the song "Wells Fargo Wagon" in "The Music Man." Headquartered in San Francisco, it has grown to become the fourth-largest bank in the country, with a popular debit card, home mortgages and financial services.
It was also a pioneer in protecting its gay employees. Way back in 1987, it added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy; this at a time when AIDS was threatening to make us pariahs all over again.
In 2011, DiversityInc ranked Wells Fargo among the top 10 companies for LGBT employees. It rates a sparkling 100 from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. In 2008, stockholders voted down a proposal that would have mandated the company couldn’t provide same-sex partner benefits and would have ended its spectacular record of giving to LGBT-related organizations and causes.
The Pride Team Member Network for LGBT employees has 37 chapters. The company has been actively lobbying Congress to pass the long-delayed Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And it actively solicits LGBT employees through outreach at job fairs.
The policies extend into every corner of the financial giant’s many divisions. Last year, the national LGBT bar association honored Wells Fargo with its Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award for programs like demanding some of the most detailed data on diversity from law firms.
Any outside counsel doing business with Wells Fargo is "encouraged" (polite for "must provide") the number of LGBT attorneys. "We are interested in providing a fair and inclusive environment for all of our legal professionals," Jim Strother, Wells Fargo’s top lawyer, said upon receiving the award. "It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business."
As of last, year, the company donated an astounding $219 million to 19,000 nonprofits, including many LGBT organizations. That represented 25 years of support through grants, sponsorships and volunteerism. That works out to $266,000 every day.
Anti-bullying campaigns have become a particular focus -- a response to concerns expressed by LGBT employees.
This year, Wells Fargo teamed up with organizations supporting LGBT youth in cities across the country, such as GLSEN, the It Gets Better Project and the Trevor Project. Employees marched alongside these groups to heighten awareness of anti-bullying efforts.
This is a good example of a company doing well by doing good. It doesn’t hurt that we very often have what Wells Fargo handles: investment capital. In general, LGBT Americans really are more affluent than the general population. Although more and more gay families are undercutting the DINK ("double income no kids") paradigm, it’s still true that many of us have more money to invest.
Earlier this year, the company conducted a survey of 1,100 adults, 600 of them gay identified. It found that we were a lot more optimistic about the economy than the general public. It also showed that we’re more confused about how to save for retirement -- music to Wells Fargo’s ears.
Mark Ng, who heads the LGBT division of the Strategy and Segments division, readily acknowledges the fact that we make great customers. Not only do we have money, but we also like corporations that like us. We sit up and take notice advertising in gay media -- especially ads that don’t condescend or ignore us.