Propelling the LGBT Economy into the National Conversation
LGBT Americans have long contributed to society in numerous ways, but existing data failed to capture their impact on the national economy. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) saw an opportunity to not only count but celebrate societal contributions of the LGBT community that have long been under the radar.
The U.S. economy represents more than 20 percent of the entire global economy and is home to several billion-dollar industries spanning across the private and public sectors. But until recently, no one was talking about the role the LGBT community played in supporting the American economy. Left out of economic census data, LGBT businesses and professionals lacked recognition and representation, and the diversity of their career paths was often overshadowed by stereotypes and preconceived notions.
Building up to the 2016 election, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) wanted to ensure that LGBT issues were included in the national conversation. Most other identity groups, such as women, people of color, veterans, and persons with disabilities have economic data representing their communities. But with the LGBT community missing, the NGLCC needed to compile its own comprehensive report using the information they had from their 50 chambers across the U.S.
Since 2004, NGLCC has provided a best-in-class diversity certification program, making it the exclusive national third-party certifying body for LGBT Business Enterprise® (LGBTBE®) companies. The organization has since become the business voice of the LGBT+ community, representing 1.4 million businesses and their economic interests.
Using the financial data required for LGBTBE® certification, representing businesses and professionals from around the country, NGLCC was able to provide an analysis on every aspect of a business—from structure to employee numbers—and developed an aggregate and anonymous data set representing the economic impact of LBGT businesses across the country.
With the data they gathered, NGLCC discovered that their impact on the economy made the LGBT community the tenth wealthiest economy in the world. Additionally:
- Certified LGBTBE® companies alone contributed over $1.15 billon to the US economy.
- More than 900 Certified LGBTBE® companies have created more than 33,000 jobs in the United States.
- LGBTBE® companies have an average revenue of $2,475,642, with at least one enterprise reporting $180,000,000 in annual gross.
- LGBT enterprises have been in business for over 12 years, on average—far above national average.
NGLCC’s report, “America’s LGBT Economy,” is considered groundbreaking in its methodology and findings, with media coverage across major national and local outlets. NGLCC continues to spread the word to its LGBT constituents to ensure awareness of this data, the importance of LGBTBE® certification, and related resources and tools available for community members no matter where they are in their careers or where they hope to go.
Successful LGBT business owners are now gaining the recognition they deserve. Using this analysis, many local and state governments have amended their minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE) codes to include LGBT.
This data played a major role in shifting corporate procurement and supplier diversity initiatives to formally include LGBT enterprises alongside all other major minority business groups. Around the country, cities are committing to intentionally include Certified LGBTBE® companies in municipal contracting and procurement opportunities and economic development programs, including Orlando, Tampa, Nashville, Baltimore, Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark, Los Angeles, Seattle/King County, WA, Columbus, Louisville, and Philadelphia. Additionally, California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania have made that commitment at the state level. A bill introduced in the New York City Council to include Certified LGBTBE® companies in the largest economy in America is expected to pass in 2020.
Supply chains now need to include LGBTQ-owned businesses in order for large corporations to achieve a top score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, the top benchmark for private sector LGBT inclusion, as well as for the Billion Dollar Roundtable, the prestigious network of corporations who spend over one billion dollars per year on minority-owned businesses. Companies must demonstrate that they are also using diverse suppliers to meet requirements that may be a part of their city contract, as well as show other clients that they have a commitment to empowering and utilizing diverse companies just as other major Fortune 500 companies do.
The report has since become a powerful tool in making the case to public programs and private sector industries like construction, public utilities, the legal field, and others who have opened priority supplier programs to empower contracts with LGBT businesses. Ultimately, the results of the report demonstrate the importance of this data while underscoring the need to expand LGBT involvement across all sectors.
Today, it is reported that the LGBT community currently contributes over $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy. The findings from this research have strengthened the LGBT community’s leverage for inclusion. By laying the groundwork of federal recognition, NGLCC’s report has made way for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion across the workforce, and greater recognition for the LGBT community’s contributions to the American economy — their fiscal impact can simply no longer be ignored.
The report is also breaking down the stereotypes placed on LGBT businesses and business owners. Young members of the community— who are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youth—can now point to successful figures who they identify with and know there is strength in their individuality that empowers them to also pave their own path.
Additionally, the number of non-White LGBT business owners continues to increase annually—now at over 17 percent, bolstered by NGLCC's leadership in the National Business Inclusion Consortium, which brings together all minority business communities. In analyzing the gender and ethnicity breakdown of the community, the report also created an imperative for partnerships between LGBT and minority businesses who pursue both certifications.
Finally, NGLCC created a Trans+ Inclusion Task Force to acknowledge the underserved trans community and the increasing violence and discrimination against trans women and trans women of color. In just one year, the task force experienced a 400 percent increase in the number of trans businesses that participate in the certification—a number that is set to surge as the trans community continues to mobilize.
"These numbers tell the real story. While our community's $917 billion spending power highlights our market clout, the jobs, tax revenues and profits we create as employers and entrepreneurs define our full economic value to America. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of our potential." —Bob Witeck, President of Witeck Communications, a certified LGBTBE that served as the analyst for this report.
“Being an LGBT person means being an entrepreneur of your own life. We have had to fight to get where we are in our communities. Bringing that mentality to your business is the same.” —Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President, NGLCC
America's LGBT Economy: NGLCC's Groundbreaking Economic Report. http://nglcc.org/report