The Road to 100 on the HRC’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index

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Rolanda Small

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I had to sit in silence when I found out that we had achieved a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index. I found myself thinking about the journey to achieving a score of 100 in the premier U.S. survey that benchmarks corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQIA+ workplace equality. Reaching this milestone didn’t come easily. It came from hard efforts working with HRC over the past few years. The progress we made with the Corporate Equality Index mirrors progress our company has made in our broader Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) efforts.

Just shy of three years ago, some leaders in our company started to look into how we could become a more inclusive organization. It was then that Palo Alto Networks signed the CEO Action Pledge. This commitment was inspiring to me – making a public promise to something that personally drives me – and made me think that this effort was becoming a reality. It meant that our journey was starting off promising – we had a lot of work to do, but it was an incredible first step. 

A number of Employee Network Groups formed and the employees became vocal on what was needed for improvement. These groups emerged over several years, created and driven by the dedication of our own employees. We worked with all of our networks, but especially our LGBTQIA+ Network to help us understand areas of weakness within our organization and confront uncomfortable conversations to start making needed improvements to our work environment. Employees in the group helped by sharing their insights on areas where we didn’t score very well during our first Corporate Equality Index survey, provided suggestions on where we could improve, and helped us enact solutions.

Confronting a low score wasn’t about getting a high one – it was about re-examining the policies and work environment we have in place to better support our employees. I saw our workplace changing to something sparked by passion. We took that passion and focused it with a strategy, with an intent that it would be built from the foundation of doing what is right for our employees, with our employees. 

We also took a look outside our company. We wanted to build stronger relations with community partners including the Billy DeFrank Center in Silicon Valley and Dallas Hope Charities. These organizations exemplify values that support the mission of our own LGBTQIA+ Network and corporation. Each organization has received grants and strong volunteer support from our employees, giving us a stronger understanding of the identities and passions of our colleagues. Additionally, we built up our sponsorships and recruitment efforts with Lesbians Who Tech and Silicon Valley Pride, desiring to find more opportunities to reach out to these groups and offer career support and networking. I personally believe that making a public statement of support for our network members and external organizations is just as important as changing our internal policies.  

Lastly, we took a deep look at our internal policies and practices to review them with a more critical, inclusive lens ensuring that they were supportive of all employees. I am driven by this feeling to make all feel welcome, fully welcome. Policies can be a burden to those who have walked a unique path through life, and seeing these policies change to reflect more inclusion felt like we were mapping the policies to the path and not the other way around. Perhaps our greatest learning is that these policies and strategies need constant review – done with humble reflection and disruptive thinking to better serve our employees and the communities around us. 

Given my role in I&D to oversee our Employee Network Groups and my personal commitment to inclusion, my heart is beaming with pride. Our employees and our partners speak and we listen! We will strive to maintain our score of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index and continue to achieve new milestones in other areas of Inclusion & Diversity. That requires even more steadfast persistence to listening and hard work, change and strategy, and I am ready.

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