L.G.B.T. Activists and their supporters gather in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall on October 24, 2018 in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
A little over a year ago, the Business Roundtable brought together nearly 200 CEOs from the country’s most influential companies to set a new standard for companies. At the time, I applauded when the committee announced the “Modernized Principles” that executives should commit to in order to balance the needs of shareholders with customers, employees, suppliers and local communities and “add value to all.”
This is a significant departure from the previous for-profit philosophy. For decades, the prevailing view of the noble economist Milton Friedman was that the company’s role was to “use its resources and carry out activities to increase its profits …”. However, as the Business Roundtable recognized, today’s environment calls for a different approach. A more inclusive approach. And as a business leader, it is clear that we can no longer stand on the sidelines.
From an LGBTQ + advocacy perspective, I am proud that we did not. Citi signed an amicus letter in the recent Supreme Court case with hundreds of companies, including some of America’s best-known companies, asking the court to determine that federal law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And last June, the court banned such discrimination in the workplace – a milestone for LGBTQ + employees and allies. And there are certainly other strong examples of companies advocating for LGBTQ + equality.
Despite these advances, LGBTQ + people continue to face major challenges. One recently study The Center for American Progress announced that more than one in three LGBTQ Americans suffered discrimination in the past year, including more than one in five transgender Americans. And discrimination has real consequences. A survey The National Center for Transgender Equality found that a third of transgender people suffered harassment or denial of service after presenting ID with a name or gender tag that did not match their appearance. In these cases, the answer to what’s in a name is everything.
When I got to it Citi as head of US Branded Maps earlier this year and learned about these statistics as part of an upcoming initiative MasterCard To give transgender and non-binary customers the option to use their chosen first name on our credit cards, I was deeply moved. How devalued I would feel if I wasn’t recognized by my name, I thought, and this is a cisgender woman who doesn’t have nearly the same problems as trans people.
As one of the largest credit card companies in the country, we had the opportunity to take this conversation forward, raise awareness of an issue that requires it, and offer a solution to foster recognition, acceptance and empowerment. This initiative quickly became a collective call at all levels of the company. From developing a complex backend process that includes the customer’s chosen name and legal name on the account to ensure a safe customer experience, to designing and delivering empathy training for thousands of customer service reps, the effort was about one Person or department. And I’m proud to say that since launching in October, over 5,000 customers have updated their cards with their chosen first name.
Mikail (she / she) is featured in Citi’s advertising campaign for the naming feature they have chosen, which allows transgender and non-binary customers to use their chosen name on credit cards.
This may seem like a small step, but small steps often go oversized. I was reminded when, shortly after the initiative started, we received a message from one of our customers on Facebook: “I wish there was something like this when I started my transition. This will remove one of many worries.” we all had this when we presented our true selves to the world. “Another customer on Twitter remarked,” Our identity is part of the story of origin, part of choice, but choices are often limited. Partnering with @Miti with @Mastercard provides #transgender & #nonbinary people #TrueName – the right to use the name they choose for eligible credit cards. Excellent! “
Companies cannot afford to be spectators. In helping to build more equitable and inclusive cultures, we will do good by doing good. In addition to attracting the best talent, companies will also nurture happy and loyal customers who are increasingly only doing business with brands that deal with social issues.
As leaders, we need to stand up and support initiatives that can drive progress in meaningful ways. Doing good needs to be embedded in our business models and go beyond financial support to donate time, talent and resources to make a real difference. We all share the responsibility of embodying the Business Roundtable’s call to focus on purpose and aligning practices with tenets.
And if we are lucky, we will learn important lessons too. For one thing, I’ll never think about a name like that again.
– Posted by Pam Habner, Head of US Trademark Cards, Citi