by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
In October of last year, Group Health formally recognized the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies Staff Resource Group (LGBT & Allies) as a formal group. Since that time, the organization's membership has swelled to over 100 people.
'For several years, a small group of us met behind the scenes, pushing issues forward that affected the LGBT community,' Tiffany Nelson, board president, told a group of more than 100 Group Health staff assembled at the kickoff meeting for LGBT & Allies. 'It was really informal, and it felt like pushing uphill. With the help of H.R., we're able to now be a legitimate group. That's really important. We can, as a body, affect the changes we want. I've always felt that Group Health was warm, inviting, and inclusive. What we're trying to do is make what's been kind of implicit to be explicit.'
According to LGBT & Allies officials, the goal of the group is to foster diversity and inclusion. 'We promote Group Health's best interests by recommending programs for staff, patients, and purchasers who identify as being part of a sexual or gender minority,' states the group. 'We believe, as Group Health believes, in workplace equality regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or identity.'
LGBT & Allies say they have three overriding goals that stem from a commitment to help make Group Health the community's employer of choice and health care system of choice:
o To serve as a major source of consultation to Group Health in its efforts to be the best place for LGBT patients to receive care and coverage in our communities.
o To create learning opportunities and activities that foster LGBT awareness so as to support and further an inclusive work environment at Group Health.
o To participate in and increase Group Health's visibility in the community so as to attract new staff, leverage our community allies, and increase LGBT member share.
'Many other businesses across the country have found that making employee or staff resource groups available improves staff engagement, satisfaction and longevity with the company,' Nelson told Seattle Gay News. 'For minority populations, this forum provides opportunity to network, change policy, provide a face to the community, and drive the business objectives in a non-linear divisional format.'
Nelson said the group is working on developing an assessment to determine what Group Heath employees would like to see as activities. 'We are currently working on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index ratings, building a provider network, and a marketing/community involvement plan to expand Group Health's presence in the LGBT community and Pride activities,' she said.
Currently the board has an open meeting every other month with subcommittees meeting during the in-between months to drive the work forward. According to LGBT & Allies officials, any current member of Group Health Cooperative, Group Health Permanente, or a Group Health subsidiary or affiliate can join if they support and respect the goals of the group. You don't have to be a member of a sexual minority, and there are no fees or dues.
'In many ways, Group Health is open and inclusive at a fundamental level. Yet we need to do better at making our core beliefs more transparent for the sake of our patients and employees,' Nelson told SGN. 'It has been exciting and inspiring to see how many people are willing to join, work together on respective committees, and invest in the staff resource group.'
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