The Human Rights Campaign Releases Annual Corporate Equality Index

by Aryn Fields

A record 767 companies achieved a top-score for LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies despite arduous year for businesses, stakeholders, and customers.

Today, the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, released its 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring company policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality. The CEI comes out after a year the nation has faced a global pandemic, legitimate racial injustice and national unrest. Within this climate, companies have continued to advance vital workplace protections for LGBTQ employees around the world, as acknowledged in this report.

This year, a record-breaking 767 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100, up from 686 last year—a single-year increase of almost 12 percent. In 2002, the first year of the CEI, only 13 companies achieved a top-score, demonstrating the incredible impact the CEI has had on the business world over its 19-year life. This year’s CEI reflects growth across every measurement category, from the adoption of inclusive non-discrimination policies, to equitable healthcare benefits for transgender employees.

From the previously unimaginable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, to a long overdue reckoning with racial injustice, 2020 was an unprecedented year. Yet, many businesses across the nation stepped up and continued to prioritize and champion LGBTQ equality. The progress made since the CEI’s inception is truly astounding and proves these initiatives have a deep impact on the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ workers.

While the CEI cannot measure every facet of what makes a workspace inclusive, it does create a foundation upon which employees can feel more comfortable living and working as their true selves—an important step, but one which is only the starting point. Diversity and inclusion policies and practices advanced through tools like the CEI are critical, but meaningful change requires breathing life into these policies in real and tangible ways, so that LGBTQ employees are truly seen, valued and respected not only at work, but in every aspect of life.”

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

The CEI has successfully worked with the country’s top corporations, law firms and leaders, helping them break new ground each year in workplace equality. The CEI is one tool among many for savvy consumers and the public at-large to assess where they want to work or spend their dollars. While the CEI cannot be a barometer for the full-scope of workplace culture, it does work to create a foundation upon which employees can work to rectify their concerns and feel more comfortable living and working as their true selves.

The most considerable progress measured over the 19 year history of the CEI, and continuing in 2021, has been has been the wide-scale adoption of transgender-inclusive initiatives across businesses.

  • A full 94 percent of the Fortune 500 and 99.7 percent of all CEI rated businesses have gender identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies—up from 3 percent and 5 percent respectively since the launch of the CEI in 2002.
  • 71 percent of the Fortune 500 and 91 percent of all CEI-rated businesses offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage, up from 0 in 2002, and 22 times as many businesses as ten years ago.
    • 97 new employers offer this coverage according to the 2021 report.

Other key findings revealed in the 2021 CEI:

  • The 767 companies who earned a 100 on the CEI represent over 13 million employees nationally, and another 13 million globally.
  • Of all Fortune 500 companies, 458 have sexual orientation in their U.S. non-discrimination policy, and 448 have gender identity.
  • The average CEI score for all Fortune 500 companies increased from 73 to 76 in the past year—with actively participating Fortune 500 companies having an average score of 91 percent, up from 89 percent last year.

Companies rated in the CEI include Fortune magazine’s 500 largest publicly traded businesses, American Lawyer magazine’s top 200 revenue-grossing law firms (AmLaw 200), and hundreds of publicly and privately held mid- to large-sized businesses.

The CEI criteria are reviewed annually and periodically change, raising the bar to reflect best practices for LGBTQ inclusion and to drive companies to improve upon their commitment to the community. The 2021 CEI criteria are the 5th iteration in the survey’s 19-year history and reflect our most robust standards to date. The criteria fall under four central pillars:

  • Non-discrimination policies across business entities;
  • Equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families;
  • Supporting an inclusive culture; and,
  • Corporate social responsibility.

The full report is available online at

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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