Corporate Doors Open Wide: As Large Corporations Realize the Benefits of a Diverse Workforce, Career-Minded Gays and Lesbians Are Being Recruited like Never Before

Article excerpt

Like many MBA students entering an elite business school, Kevin Smith, 28, knew he'd be courted during his first year by recruiters from some of America's top corporations. What he didn't plan on was how much his being gay would factor into the recruitment process--in a good way.

America's big corporations have discovered that employee diversity can boost their bottom lines, and Smith's generation of LGBT power players has become the target of corporate recruiters who are employing a variety of innovative methods to reach out to them. A student at New York University's Stern School of Business, Smith attended the Reaching Out MBA conference in Chicago last year, where he met with and was eventually recruited by American Express to be an intern this summer. The annual student-run event brings gay and lesbian corporate job seekers together with recruiters from some of the nation's largest companies, including Home Depot, Target, General Electric, and Toyota.

"Workplace diversity is something that American Express has always stood behind," says Smith. "They see their corporate culture as being a reflection on the diversity of both New York--being a New York-headquartered company--and more importantly, on the nation as a whole."

Linda Hassan, director of diversity recruiting for American Express, says her company understands the role people like Smith can play. "We are a global company, with global customers served by employees of various races, nationalities, and experiences," she says. "To be successful in the marketplace, it's important that our workforce reflects our customer base."

The gay community has a lot to offer the nation's top employers, says Dan Honig, chief operating officer of WorkplaceDiversity.com, a job-search Web site dedicated to helping recruiters broaden the spectrum of their employee bases. "Facts are facts, and with the gay and lesbian community, education levels are simply higher than average," he says. …