When Susannah Barnes took a job at American Family Insurance in 2014, she wasn’t sure what to expect of a corporate environment after working at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for 10 years.
Susannah, her wife, Heather, and their son.
“I came here from an arts environment,” Barnes said. “There’s no closet there.”
Barnes, who has a Master of Fine Arts in Stage Design, went back to school when her son was a year old with her eyes on a career change. She got another master’s degree, this time in Library and Information Science, and eventually landed as a data analyst at American Family.
Barnes said she knew very little about the company’s culture before starting her job. “But my perspective was that I was almost 37 and I had never been closeted before and I wasn’t going to start now.”
And from day one, she’s never felt anything but support and acceptance of who she is by colleagues at all levels of the company. From easily adding her wife to her benefits, to attending company events with her family, Barnes said it’s simply been a non-issue. “I’ve been myself and it’s never been a thing. It speaks to where we are as a company.”
Inclusive culture affirmed by Human Rights Campaign
Barnes’ experience is reflected in the fact that American Family Insurance has again been recognized as a one of the best workplaces for LGBTQ equality, announced today.
American Family’s perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking report on LGBTQ workplace equality, is the company’s fifth consecutive top score. The 2020 CEI rated businesses in the report based on policies and practices including non-discrimination workplace protections, parity in spousal and partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, and public engagement with the LGBTQ community.
For more information on the 2020 Corporate Equality Index, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/cei.
“We’re proud to once again be recognized for our inclusive culture,” said Tyler Whipple, diversity and inclusion director. “We’ve never been more committed to an equitable and inclusive workplace where everyone feels they belong, and every employee can do their best work on behalf of our customers.”
Community support and visibility
The company’s support for the LGBTQ community goes beyond its walls. In 2019, American Family, through its LGBTQA Business Resource Group (BRG), provided financial support for nonprofits OutReach LGBT Community Center in Madison and Courage MKE, which provides housing, resources, and other services for displaced and homeless LGBTQ youth in Milwaukee.
Reflecting its ongoing commitment to diversity, in 2019 the company began flying the LGBT Pride flag at its corporate headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, year-round, rather than just in June, internationally recognized at LGBT Pride Month.
American Family’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity includes sponsorship of five BRGs. Employee members of these groups are committed to serving as resources for the business. In addition to LGBTQA, the groups are Abilities, Multicultural, Veterans and Military, and Women’s.