Prizm News / June 3, 2019 / By Elaine Schleiffer
How Huntington Bank improved corporate culture through a focus on diversity and inclusion
By Elaine Schleiffer
Ten years ago, incoming CEO Steve Steinour saw some numbers at Huntington Bank he didn’t like and decided to take action. But these weren’t the typical spreadsheets that would normally consume the senior leadership of a major corporation. Instead, it was a single number that inspired change: Huntington’s less than perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.
As a business headquartered and operating in the Midwest, Huntington might have kept LGBTQ issues under the rug, fearing them disruptive or divisive. But Steinour decided there was another path forward for Huntington, and boldly advocated for a culture shift that embraced equality and diversity.
Today, says Marlon Moore, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Huntington, their culture is thriving and their future is bright. “Any diversity and inclusion efforts that gain momentum and help a company move forward have to have support from senior leaders,” Moore notes, “And we do. At Huntington, our goal is to welcome all.”
Steinour meets twice a year with the leaders of Huntington’s business resource groups, employee-led groups of colleagues centered on specific aspects of diversity. “Those groups have led the charge in shaping our inclusive culture,” Moore says. “The group helps us focus on what’s needed, and it’s important that we allow the business resource groups to lead.”
When the LGBTQIA+ business resource group was founded at Huntington, some 40 colleagues came together to begin working on the initiative. Now, more than 350 employees participate in the group. Employees from sites all across the Midwest are also supported in participating in community events like Pride parades. Steinour himself walks the Columbus Pride parade route each year with a contingent from the Huntington headquarters.
The LGBTQIA+ business resource group has helped Huntington focus on needed policy improvements, and Moore says they’ve followed through on several programs and practices that have been recommended by the group. One key initiative was implementing policies to support transgender or transitioning employees. Supportive policies are named explicitly in the employee handbook, including an HR contact, and expectations for managers and leadership support. “We want to make sure that the experience of transgender or transitioning employees is safe, supported, and encouraging,” Moore said.
The proof is in the numbers: Huntington has received a 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the past six consecutive years. Moore says they are committed to continued diversity and inclusion efforts not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the business case has become a clear part of their long-term strategic objectives.
Huntington is a member of Ohio Business Competes, a coalition of more than 600 businesses committed to instituting and realizing nondiscrimination policies at the state level. The coalition also fosters relationships between businesses, and businesses and consumers, to encourage diversity and nondiscrimination in economic relationships across Ohio.
Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, notes the importance of the business coalition members in advancing Ohio Business Competes. “Business voices, large and small, are clearing a path for welcoming environments for LGBTQ Ohioans, and LGBTQ people who are considering Ohio as a home.”
For Huntington, striving for diversity and inclusion has become just the way they do business. “We’re more high performing, we have brighter ideas, we enjoy different ways of thinking,” Moore says. “Our goal is to live these values on a daily basis.”
Elaine Schleiffer is a community organizer, writer, and advocate focused on reproductive justice and queer rights in Cleveland, Ohio. Find her at elaineschleiffer.com.